Debut follow-up albums have a dreaded reputation for falling short of their predecessors.The Essex Greenbucked the odds and delivered a masterwork release withThe Long Goodbyein 2003. The band's core trio of Sasha Bell, Jeff Baron, and Chris Ziter were fresh out of the influential Elephant 6 stables with their stunning twin releases, a self-titled extended play and the classic full-lengthEverything Is Green. Compared to the psychedelic swirl and sunny disposition ofEverything Is Green,The Long Goodbyewas a mature and incredibly thoughtful endeavor that emphasized the core members' evolution in songwriting and arrangement. Remember when XTC jumped theBlack Seapost-punk ship and delivered the eccentric and elegantEnglish Settlement?The Long Goodbyeembodies that massive leap by taking risks and sinking the debut album blueprint. Their second full-length has a more relaxed and assured vibe, akin to the feel of summer's end. There's a sense that the band is preparing for a new season. Each of the twelve tracks onThe Long Goodbyeis distinctive. They create a patchwork of influences that range from post-Sandy Denny Fairport Convention on "By the Sea" to the spirited and catchy bounce of "The Late Great Cassiopia." One almost hears a direct link between Flying Nun and K Records pop sensibilities. The hypnotic "Our Lady in Havana" summons the spirit of Judee Sill, and "Julia" rings like a Jimmy Webb/ Emitt Rhodes collaboration at some roadside cafe. "Chartiers" would've been a hit on Scotland's Postcard Records, with it's stunning sound that either Lloyd Cole or Prefab Sprout longed to perfect. Take the essence of all these influences, wrap them up in sweetened Cowsill harmonies, add that passionate longing of Kevin Ayers and a dose of "Dandy"-era Kinks and you get close to what The Essex Green are capable of.The Long Goodbyeis timeless work and warrants another introduction to the world.