[EARLY ELECTRO-POP] I'm not sure how big of a market there really is for I Was the East, a compilation of alternate versions and B-sides from Portland-based Lovers' masterful 2009 record, I Am the West. But for die-hards (I'm one), the collection is indispensable.
Half the songs on this new digital-only release are "original versions" of the West album's most memorable tunes. Two single-worthy cuts, "Igloos for Ojos" and "Tonight," start the disc. Both feature imposing, Pixies-esque guitarwork that knifes across the top of the track while Carolyn Berk (who now runs Lovers, her old solo project, as a trio) delivers her calm, breathy vocals unaffected by the feedback spikes. The warm electronic layering from the songs' 2009 reworkings are replaced in these 2006 recordings by strings and punchier synth work, but the spirit is the same. The song most drastically made-over from West to East is "Stay Another Night," which appears here as a slow, finger-picked ballad. It's a lovely version, though I prefer the faster, shinier 2009 take—it's just as tender but benefits from strong harmonies.
Some of the unreleased tracks on East—like "Dark Star" and "This is the Last Song"—are really Frankensteined versions of other Lovers' songs, making them interesting for those curious in Berk's songwriting craft, but not essential for the casual fan of West. But the two true originals here—the infectious and sweet "How Beautiful You Are" and the striking, minimal "Rabbits"—are absolutely essential. Casual fans should download those two tracks from this digital-only release and then buy West, which, on the whole, contains the superior versions of some of Berk's best songs. Ideally, this new collection would appear as a second disc on a reissued West. That album certainly deserves another look.