After the glowing critical reception of debut album Collect Them All (among Greil Marcus' top 10 records of 1997) and the 1999 follow-up Inside the Horse's Head, the eclectic pop/roots/guitar rock of 44 Long and singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Brian Berg seemed poised to conquer the world. Major labels flew Berg about for showcases; a few songs received national radio play; and the band's imminent third album was eagerly awaited. Seven years later, that album, the oddly titled Hangover Heights Part 2, has finally arrived.

Riff City: So, the new record was supposed to come out in 2000. What happened?

Brian Berg: It got hijacked by my life. That one, Hangover Heights Part 1, is going to come out around December. It's been done for five years, but a lot of family stuff happened: birth, divorce, death, death. Not the same people, of course. It's all mid-life kind of shit, is what it amounts to. Part 1 is post-divorce, more about the end of a relationship, and Part 2 is about a different relationship. Some cancer, some different things. It's been a wild six years.

But you're releasing Part 2 first?

It just kinda happened that way. All of Part 2 was recorded in the last two or three years. Hangover Heights Part 1 was recorded between 1999 and 2002, during the downfall of my marriage. That was hard for me to deal with, and I almost wanted to put a wedge between the albums and be more detached.

Musically, has much changed since the first two albums?

Probably more pop, less alt country. [The album] still strives to be the radio station where Neil Young goes into Elvis Costello goes into the Beatles. My whole trip is never to have any of the songs fit into one genre.

Are you going to tour?

If good things start to happen, I'm totally down with that. We're a three-piece now, with Andy Ricker and Cory Burden. On Part Two, I played every last note except some pedal steel on the last song, and these guys are so awesome. Everything I do is like a demo, but I just refuse to redo anything, and these guys understand that. Hopefully, I'm going to start recording with them.

Is your home studio going well?

My studio's been doing great. I've been working with [Guided By Voices bassist] Chris Slusarenko on a project called the Takeovers. [Stephen] Malkmus was just in again. John Moen [of the Decemberists]. Sam Coomes [of Quasi]. It's sort of an all-star type of thing. We make this music here that Chris and I record, but then we ship it out to [GBV leadman] Bob Pollard and he puts vocals on it and the next thing you know there's a record out. We just started working on the second one. I just recorded a song with John Doe, too. And the studio's open to the public. If people are cool, maybe they can come in.

44 Long's CD-release party for

Hangover Heights Part 2

features guests Derby, 20 Minute Loop and the Lonely Forest, Saturday, May 20, at Dante's. 9:30 pm. $6. 21+.