While there was a 10 year gap between the orchestral folk of The Return of the Frog Queen and the more indie feel of World Waits, Enigk has chosen to release his third solo disc, The Missing Link, just 10 months after his last one. Granted, there are only four new tracks here, with five live renditions of material from World Waits at the end, so it’s more like a studio EP and a concert EP thrown together. But The Missing Link is exactly what the title suggests; it provides outtakes from the World Waits sessions and throws in some live tracks to help put it context more easily.
The Missing Link opens with “Oh John,” and it bears the familiar jangley guitar and raspy voice of Enigk. Catchy but subdued, it’s a somber opener. “Chewing Gum” and “Tatseo Show” follow suit, with a string section to add an extra layer of sound. Things start to pick up halfway through track four, “On the Wayside,” which has a folksy rock swagger about it that might appeal to fans of current acts like I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business.
The second half of the disc consists of live cuts, and the difference between these versions and their studio counterparts fluctuates. In the case of “River to Sea,” the song sounds subtly fuller, with additional synth and electric guitar to complement Enigk’s advice to “turn around/your life is in your hands.” Later, “Been Here Before” and “Canons” sound the same, but with more emphasis. Maybe it’s Kaanan Tupper’s more emphatic drumming, or just a general from the whole band to rock out the material a little further. Either way you like, these songs sound great.
Closing track “World Waits” goes the opposite route, though, going for a stripped down, more somber tone. Part of this change is due to the setting; the vocal and piano tracks aren’t doubled like on World Waits. Half a minute longer than before, this live cut is beautiful in its bare, mid-tempo simplicity. Oh, and it has a cute guitar solo.While by no means as essential as, say, SDRE’s Diary or How It Feels to Be Something On, The Missing Link proves that Enigk is still kicking out impressive tunes, just of a different, mellower suit. Now get back to work on that Fire Theft follow-up.