4x4, by Works Progress Administration

October 6, 2011

Works Progress Administration is a loose collective of a supergroup, primarily a collaboration between Glen Phillips and Sean Watkins. Phillips fronts the recently reunited Toad the Wet Sprocket, a mellow guitar rock band that stood out in the 1990s for its great songwriting and sound, its ambitious (and sometimes religious) themes and its ridiculous name. Watkins is best known as part of the defunct progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek, and WPA's self-titled debut suffered from some of his former band's slick acoustic excess.

This four-song extended-play album puts a better foot forward. It presents WPA as a scrappy little folk rock band with tight harmonies and well-seasoned songwriting—especially by Phillips, who's at his earnest yet clever best on the tender divorce ballad "It's Over Now" ("Meet at the park and watch the kids playin' / Silently guess what the other's not sayin'").