Various Artists – Endearing Records Sampler

Various Artists
Endearing Records Sampler

Honestly, I’ve been putting off this review for quite some time. A label sampler? Come on! Tribute records and benefit albums are bad enough, but a label sampler? I can’t think of any label right now besides maybe Dischord who could release a listenable sampler (and as far as I know, they do not make one). Label samplers usually remind me of two things: as mentioned above, there may not be a label on this planet with a strong enough roster to warrant actually listening to one of these things, and, given the reckless abandon with which these are handed out, I’m still probably paying three or four times the amount of what I should be for a CD. To make things worse, this particular sampler, from Endearing Records, has a PO box in Winnipeg. Jesus. Name one band, just one from Winnipeg. Can you name one ANYTHING from Winnipeg?

The first song on this disc did little to set aside my fears. The Pets’ “A Lighthearted Love Song” does a horrible job of walking the line between sounding nostalgic and sounding dated, often falling on the wrong side. Fortunately, and shockingly, I was pleasantly by much of the rest of the sampler. Novillero’s “Cat Scan” survives some silly lyrics with a pleasing ska-melody and a very non-ska horn section. The power-pop songs of the Twigs and Vancouver Nights (doesn’t have quite the same ring as the New York Dolls does it?), both powered by pleasing female singers showcase some nice songwriting skills. Christine Fellows, who sounds vaguely like Alanis Morrisette, sings sweetly over a strummy acoustic and an active string section in “Advice,” to a most pleasing effect. New Waver chimes in with an eclectic spoken-word type piece with some electronic underpinnings.

Ninety-nine is another female-fronted group that sound like PJ Harvey on a steady diet of mid-90’s alt-rock. More twee power-pop contributions from Plumtree and B’ehl are a little tired, but good nonetheless. Porter Hall, Painted Thin, and the Bonaduces all play similar indie-rock styles that sound a bit like the Deep Elm roster, minus the trite lyrics and sappiness. The best song (band?) on the sampler is “Beautiful Skin” by Projektor (doesn’t that sound like the name of a bad 80’s hair metal band?), a seven and a half minute epic that sounds like a less-abrasive Juno. It sounds wonderful among all the nostalgic pop and power punk, but the song is good enough to stand on its own too.

As always, there are a few duds, namely songs by the Pets, the Salteens and Hot Little Rocket, but that’s to be expected (I’m not going to go as far as to say the bands are mediocre – one song is hardly a fair assessment). The truth is, this is a promising, if not entirely listenable sampler from Endearing records, who at least appear to have quite a roster on their hands. They house everything from heady space rock to lo-fi pop and Lilith Fair-ian songwriting, and it’s nearly as consistently good as it is eclectic. I don’t think I recommend going out and buying this sampler – that’s never really a good idea. But I do recommend at least checking out Endearing’s website, as they have quite a few promising acts residing here. [Just a note – Endearing does not sell their sampler but distributes CD-R of these songs at shows and to fans as a way of spreading unreleased tracks and new bands – ed.]