Various Artists – Songs for the Geographically Challenged

Various Artists
Songs for the Geographically Challenged

Sounds of the Geographically Challenged is a compilation disk of bands whose members live in different states and cities. The songs were intended for release on a series of four 12″ records, but instead all of the tracks were collected on one 66-minute CD. The album notes indicate that this project almost didn’t see the light of day due to various delays and disasters, and considering the rambling nature of the people involved, that’s probably not surprising. But luckily this made it out, because there are some really good tracks on here.

Although the results are mixed, as can be expected from groups whose members live in different time zones, there are a number of standouts. Nero contributes a fun and furious little math-noise ditty, (and it amazed me to find that not one member is from Chicago). A band called Continental OP features Will Oldham on vocals, and he sings over an evil synth-rock number. Windsor For the Derby’s track “Sleeping In My Car” is mesmerizing. For those (un)lucky enough to have experienced sleeping in a car at night, the music and atmosphere of this track fit the situation perfectly. Haelah also delivers a winner, with an excellent Built to Spill-style pop song that leaves you wondering how great the band could be if they’d just move to the same city. Songs: Ohia, and Hz Roundtable make worthwhile contributions as well. Runaway winner for best track is the Halifax Pier song tacked onto the end of the disk. It is tender, well arranged, and altogether a beautiful piece of music.

This is a good collection to seek out, if only to obtain the Halifax Pier track. This may prove difficult for the music fan in this case. I have to be honest here, album art minimalism is really starting to get on my nerves, and this compilation is a prime example. No matter how cool people think it is to not list any information or to not give the listener anything to look at, it has been way overdone. In this case, it doesn’t benefit bands appearing on a compilation. The CD print is entirely white, with only the recording’s name (also in white!) around the small inner band. (I actually lost it for a few weeks, because I thought it was a CDR!) The meticulously cut hearts in the brown paper of the sleeve looks great, but where are the contact addresses? The label itself has listed no contact info or even their email address, and only two artists provided contact info. It is interesting to read which cities the individual artists live in, but I’d rather find out what they are doing right now and how I can see them live or buy their music (especially considering all of the songs were recorded in 1997 and 1998). Not everyone owns a computer and can research this on their own, you know.