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“[O]ne of the most important, and possibly least well known songwriters today. But that HAS to change soon, as Phelps has the most heart rending, soul stirring voice this side of the late Elliott Smith. But unlike Smith's whispery rasp, Phelps has a HUGE voice, a wailing almost falsetto, that is rough around the edges and only gets rougher when he belts it out, threatening to crack, but always right on. His band in the past has woven delicate, twangy moody indie rock janglescapes to back him up, and still does some of the time, but quite often on Customs, the Downer Trio have their amps on 10 and the sound is loud and raucous, but no less emotional and intense. Still minor key, still pained and dripping with gorgeous miserablism. Each song is an exercise in tension, building and building, chugging guitars and minor key melodies with Phelps vocals sending shivers down your already goosebump covered spine.” - Aquarius Records

"There's something intriguingly self-critical in Phelps' vocals: His straining signals his frustrations not only with the futility of the dismal dilemmas he describes, but also with the limits of music to convey such emotional extremes. He constantly searches but never discovers a thematic push-and-pull between the words and the notes, which turns the album's stark weaknesses into compelling strengths. It is through such sins that he comes closest to redemption - but, thankfully, never close enough. 7.9” - Pitchfork

Originally released by Moneyshot in 2004.

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released August 29, 2004

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Joel R.L. Phelps & The Downer Trio Vancouver, British Columbia

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