Various Artists – Cleaning House: A Devil in the Woods Compilation

Various Artists
Cleaning House: A Devil in the Woods Compilation

I know very little about Devil in the Woods, but their line-up is fantastic. It’s hard to imagine that some of these artists haven’t been getting major press in the indie world. There is some serious quality indie rock on this album, and that’s why you should get it. Unlike some of the label samplers, this one gives you something extra besides a bunch of already-released or best tracks. You’ve got a soon-to-be-released track and two hidden live tracks. So it’s probably worth it even for the die-hard fans.

Snowmen have a great indie rock song with some emo tendencies. “Dirt Bike Rider” is poppy and rocky all at once with those midwestern emo-sounding off-kilter vocals singing, “It’s all right, kick it out, out of sight.” Fiver’s “Smoothie” is just that: smooth. It’s slower and more relaxed, with a soft drum beat and very pretty vocals, but the rock does kick in, and it flows very well. It’s even got some cool piano in it. Cole Marquis’ track “48’s” has some pretty, acoustic guitar behind very echoey and soft vocals mixed far up, reminding me of the cool feelings of Springhouse or the echoey vocals of I See Spots. Half Film’s “The Mother of All Invention” is slow, with soft, pretty guitar work and soft vocals. You can just picture the singer slowly playing his guitar, eyes closed, mouth right against the mic, playing to a room of dead silent fans staring up raptly.

Rodriguez had a song on the Holiday Matinee comp. that I liked. This is another softer indie rock song, those soft guitars and soft vocals, very introspective and nice. The vocals get high, reminding me of Pavement a bit and of Weezer a bit. Dumptruck’s “One Foot Out the Door” has a bit more of a Southern feel to it, but it’s another indie rock gem with great vocals that sound very familiar to me, a bit like Sordid Humor (an old favorite). Earlimart have a more folksy feel to their song, both in the guitars and vocals, while Downsiders sounds almost British with very loud, echoed vocals that sound something like the Cure if they rocked more. Shallow play girl pop with some casio keyboards backing up the usual instruments. This reminds me of old Th’ Faith Healers, just in the looping style of the music, quite good. There’s an unreleased song (the best label samplers include unreleased tracks) by Cole Marquis sounding very Nick Drake-ish, a very unusual song from unpronouncable Zmrzlina (weird guitar sounds, odd beats, and drawly vocals), and two hidden live tracks. The Fiver live track gets pretty intense, the vocals almost becoming screamed but the music so nice and poppy. I really like Fiver! Then there’s Sunbirds finishing up with what sounds like Document-era REM, even the vocals!

Label compilations tend to have their problems. If you’re familiar with the label and have their releases, why would you want a bunch of already-released songs? But, if you’re unfamiliar with the label, as I was with Devil in the Woods, it’s a great way to get a good dose of rock by some seriously impressive artists and then go out and search for all of them. Which is what I recommend you do. First, get this. Then, get the bands themselves. Cuz if you haven’t heard of Devil in the Woods or these bands yet, you will soon.