Various Artists – My Favorite Songwriters

Various Artists
My Favorite Songwriters

Unique is good, right? If so, then My Favorite Songwriters is good. This CD is unique in the fact that it captures 12 unreleased songs by 12 different songwriters – all while still containing one mood. Whether the uniformity of mood is good is up to opinion: if you like acoustic-led indie-pop songs with occasional electronic interference, this album is for you. If you don’t like that, don’t invest here, because you won’t find anything to like at all.

From the big names (Ryan Ferguson of No Knife, Tim Kasher of Cursive/The Good Life, Robert Nanna of Braid/Hey Mercedes/The City on Film) to the smaller ones (Stephen Brodsky of Cave In, Arabella Harrison) to those completely unknown to me (Sextet, Hisashi Yoshino, Moonpedro and the New Farm Street Orchestra), this comp has it all. But to some degree, you can see why the people most famous are famous: two of the three stand-out tracks come from stand-out names.

Tim Kasher’s “Stranger than Strangers” is the most electronic (and most excellent) contribution on the album, full of moogs, keys, and other computerized noises that turn the song into a more complex, darker version of the Postal Service. Kasher’s pained vocals make this song, as he creaks out the story of a fading marriage with all its mental trauma audible in his voice. Ryan Ferguson’s song is top-notch as well; “On Elvira Street” is a gently pulsing goodbye letter to a departed grandmother. The guitars seem casual and unforced, creating a laidback, remorseful feel to the song. When paired with the lyrics, this becomes a killer, killer song.

The most surprising standout is by Sextet, a band I’ve never heard of. “Water Me” is so good that it almost defies defining; it’s not really all that unique in any way, but it’s simply stunning to hear. The guitars lend a soft energy to this, and the crescendo throughout the song leads to a triumphant ending with piano, soaring vocals, and a gut-punching lyrical hook (“Now that I’m all grown, I still need to grow up”). The honesty in his delivery is really what makes this song work. Instead of being cheesy (like some tracks here), the song just seems to be truth incarnate. It’s great.

There are some stinkers here as well. Jim Ward’s “These Years” sounds like a bad Cure knock, the electronica-only compositions of Derek Fudesco and Lars Heintz are both too much on the quirky side to be consistently enjoyable, and “Furimukuna” by Hisashi Yoshino is too screechy and un-mellow to fit on this comp. Just adequate is Stephen Brodsky’s “Beautiful Breakup,” which sounds like Death Cab for Cutie’s early days, and Robert Nanna’s morose “I’d Rather Be Wine Drunk,” which just sounds…drunk.

On the whole, this is a good comp. There’s some good lead tracks by successful bands, some good tracks by unknown bands, and some obligatory crap. Not by any means the greatest comp ever, but definitely one worth checking out if you’re into indie pop, like I am.