Various Artists – To Spirit Back the Mews: An Asthmatic Kitty Compilation

Various Artists
To Spirit Back the Mews: An Asthmatic Kitty Compilation

As I opened the jewel case to this Asthmatic Kitty compilation, I was confronted with cuteness: a soft kitty with green eyes staring straight at me. I could not help but smile at the gesture. Then after I removed the CD from its hold, yet another baby kitten revealed itself, even cuter than the last. The majority of the 37 seven tracks on To Spirit Back the Mews are just as warm and fuzzy as the kitties on the artwork.
Many strong tracks come from artists that already have albums out on Asthmatic Kitty, founded in Holland, Mich. by Lowell Brams and Sufjan Stevens. Half-handed Cloud, Sufjan Stevens, and Roman Bolks each have an album (or two) out, and each of their three to four songs are highlights on the album. Half-handed Cloud‘s “He’s Not the Swindler We Are” is an under-two-minute pop gem with jangly guitars, keys, and soft vocals. They have a cutesier Grandaddy thing going for them. Sufjan Stevens gives the unlikely and impressive “The First Full Moon” and “Bushwick Junkie,” two rockers that are equal parts guitar and electronics. And Roman Bolks has mastered the acoustic number, as evidenced in “My Father Fits Like a Dirty Shirt.”
But, perhaps surprisingly, the “friends” of Asthmatic Kitty bring some pleasurable songs to the album as well. Con Los Dudes provide one of the album’s best, “Walker Percy,” an organ-heavy song that finds the singer repeating “we’re a great band” at one point in the song. For a sample of Jason Brouwer, start with the somber, electronics-mingled “It’s What You Know So Well.” Matthew Haseltine makes thoughtful music with his mastery of the acoustic and less whiney Conor Oberst vocal style. Founder Lowell Brams contributes two electronic songs that would fit alongside the Tangerine Dream soundtrack of Risky Business.
Rarely do I purchase compilations. When I do, I buy them for a band that I like, only to find that I do not care for the other bands. Well, this comp does well at what it is supposed to do. Although each band varies in its sound, all of the bands have that warm, lo-fi feeling, making the album feel whole instead of as a number of random songs strewn together. And, besides some short electronic interludes or chatty munchkin comments, the album is devoid of filler. Still, the album is somewhat of a chore to delve through. The album may have benefited if each artist stuck to no more than two tracks. But as the album is, the majority of its 80 minutes is filled with enjoyable pop. The asthmatic kittens make up for the rest.