Various Artists – Acuarela Songs Vol. 2

Various Artists
Acuarela Songs Vol. 2

Following up last year’s two-CD set of “Acuarela Songs” comes this Spanish label’s excellent if excessive three-CD set, similarly – if less stringently – focused on songs that somehow center around the theme of “acuarela,” which means watercolor. With three CDs, the shortest of which clocking in at a hefty 56 minutes, there’s a lot to listen to, almost too much. But since there’s a wonderful consistency – all of the songs take a softer indie approach while being vastly different in style – it makes for a nice daylong listen.
There really are no bad songs on this compilation; however, if you like to understand your lyrics, you may find yourself skipping over some of the label’s overseas contributors. The schizophrenic “Ali Diallo” by Experience is an odd experience with the French (I believe) vocals very prominent, and “Couleur d’Eau” by France’s Dominique A takes a rather similar approach. Members of Manta Ray and Mus collaborate as Diariu on the Spanish folk-feeling “Imaxe Accidental (en Cande).” “A Live Ode to Hard Drive Chamber Music” by Encre is a haunting almost-eight-minute song, and here the foreign lyrics are almost whispered for a sultry approach. Sr. Chinarro‘s “El Single Chiquichancla” is a truly unique song, with some squawking violin providing the unique touch.
While it’s impossible to touch on everything, know that no song is outright bad. Still, there are some fantastic gems here that should grace many a mix tape and send listeners searching out bands’ full-lengths. Windsor For the Derby start the whole thing off with the absolutely stunning if somber “Logic and Surprise,” a beautifully crafted low-key pop song with some nice moody keyboards. And following is former Come singer Thalia Zedek‘s country/blues-tinged “Never that Mean,” a fantastic song and deeply personal, filled with strings, piano, and acoustic guitar. Victory at Sea have finally crafted the song they’ve been building for, turning “Heavy Hands” into an astoundingly powerful song, with singer Mona Elliott approaching PJ Harvey levels while the band’s ominous and string-driven dark sound more than adequately keeps up.
There’s a double dose of country-leaning songs, from Spain’s Polar using English lyrics on “A Cup of Coffee” and The Strugglers‘ Noun to Noun,” a fascinating song driven by Randy Bickford’s unique vocals. Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo contributes a scary, glitchy, disturbing track that does, at times, make me skip to my favorite song on this release, The Potomac Accord‘s seven-minute epic, “The Field Song,” a brilliant piano-driven emo-esque song that’s by far the release’s most intense moment. “What is the Image,” by The Sophie Drinker (Cynthia Nelson from Retsin and Ruby Falls with Michael Littleton), is an excellent little alt-pop song, kind of edgy in a softer Sonic Youth sort of way.
There’s a number of other highlights, from the gorgeously haunting, string-filled “With the Rest of Colors I Succeed to Keep” by Paris-based Natural Snow Buildings to the almost heartbreakingly lovely Mediterranean folk instrumental “Collision” from the French trio Man. The rocking mostly instrumental from Spanish band Manta Ray is decidedly catchy and strong, with some nice squonking sax, and 27 provide a dose of light and pretty pop on “One More Tomorrow.” Anamude‘s “Confetti in the Sea” is a nice acoustic track that again invokes images of PJ Harvey.
Acuarela has scoured the globe to find these amazing artists, for the most part offering up exclusives to this release. And it’s worth it alone for the stellar contributions from Windsor for the Derby, Victory at Sea, and The Potomac Accord. But the rest of the songs are good too, and it’s a consistent, enjoyable listen throughout.