Various Artists – Stranded in Stereo Volume 4

Various Artists
Stranded in Stereo Volume 4

Stranded in Stereo is a slick, free ezine (with print version available) covering music, movies, events and related merchandising. Volume 4 is a CD/DVD combo bringing what’s new in music and film to their more than 10,000 subscribers at no charge. This well-packaged bit of integrated marketing is presented by Planetary Group.

Personal mix-tapes can be great, but compilation discs by media companies are flawed because inevitably one or two good songs get lost among a dozen bad ones. And even when the songs are good, the selections usually don’t mix well. Stranded in Stereo Volume 4 is a good example of this. Of the 21 tracks here, I only liked three of them, and only found those because I had to listen to all of them more than once so I could write this review. Normally I would listen to the first fifteen seconds of each track and then decide the whole thing sucked and forget about it.

But, really, there is at least one song on this disc for everyone. And the the saving grace of this compilation is that it is free with your free subscription. Tracks you should especially seek out are Simon Dawes’ “The Awful Things,” The Novaks “No One Quite Like You” and The Blue Van’s “Don’t Leave Me Blue.”

The track by track breakdown:
(1) The Cinematics, “Break” – New wave styled pop punk, driving but not grabbing;
(2) The Go Station “All Together Now” – a decent rock song, combining elements of Oasis and Jimmy Eat World;
(3) Cities, “Writing on the Wall” – New wave synth pop on the goth tip – hey, it’s danceable;
(4) Robert Pollard, “Supernatural Car Lover” – loose, relaxed indie pop;
(5) Simon Dawes, “The Awful Things” – the first really good track on here: Ray Davies meets The New Pornographers;
(6) The Strays, “You Are the Evolution” – Supposed to rock and protest, but severely lacking;
(7) Midnight Movies, “Patient Eye” – A lulling and seductive Nico-style female lead vocal makes a boring rock song listenable;
(8) Over It, “Your Song” – A decent blend of melodic singing over rock riffing;
(9) Four Fifty One, “Nagolove” – A very catchy choppy raucous of new wave punk pop;
(10) The Novaks, “No One Quite Like You” – Stirs up good classic rock with pop punk;
(11) The Brilliance, “In the Beginning” – A simple but effective piece of youthful pop sadness;
(12) Copeland, “Control Freak” – Pop that doesn’t connect;
(13) Hot One, “Do the Coup D’Etat” – Heavy blues rock a la young Beck;
(14) Chris Thile, “How to Grow a Woman from the Ground” – Banjo and some violin make for easy folk from some porch in Anytown, USA;
(15) Prophet Omega, “The Right Thing” – Forgettable fun guitar rock;
(16) Tom Brosseau, “Fork in the Road” – Another gem from Brosseau;
(17) The Blue Van, “Don’t Leave Me Blue” – A beautiful Motown inspired tune making old new again;
(18) Street to Nowhere, “Boxcars, Boxcars, Boxcars” – An interesting chamber rock acoustic jam;
(19) The Flesh, “Hydra and Hercules” – Amped-up female vocals and classic lo-fi punk rock are a good combination;
(20) The Lemonheads, “Become the Enemy” – Another one from The Lemonheads;
(21) The Lot 6, “Strange Plains” – A rock song missing many elements.

The DVD compilation is not as good as the CD. This disc is more redundant, and many of the artists featured somehow leave the impression that they are already over-exposed.

The video by video rundown:

(1) Over It “Siren on the 101” – power pop punk crap band playing at a teeny-bopper party with lame BMX bike stunts;
(2) Wintergreen, “When I Wake Up” – the indie pop song isn’t too special but the video about the fate of a certain Atari game is compelling;
(3) The Negatones, “And So My Troubles Began” – Even though the band fails to get a laugh out of this video, the song is riff-rockin fun;
(4) American Princess, “Never Grown Old” – Both song and video have promising starts but neither pans out;
(5) Darkel, “At the End of the Sky” – A cute song with cute Flash animation;
(6) IV Thieves, “Broken Mouth Blues” – With those guitars, this band should be a lot better; the video sucks, too;
(7) Todd Hannigan, “Thicker” – A combo of pensive folk and images of nature that are not engaging;
(8) Rav Schmuel, “Protocols” – A crudely animated, playful song about being an Orthodox Jew;
(9) The Cat Empire, “The Car Song” – A front man with a weird voice plays a basketball game against his guilty conscience; at least the music was happy;
(10) Ronnie Day, “Outside” – Think of a Dashboard Confessional clone with blond hair and no band;
(11) Molitor, “Photogenic” – The pop punk song is decent if nothing else; the video is a snooze;
(12) The Living End, “Wake Up” – A British Greenday, video and all;
(13) Safety Orange, “Steppin’ Out” – At this point, the mix on this DVD has become too redundant, featuring bands that should in no way be deemed the “best of” anything;
(14) “Weird Al” Yankovic, “White and Nerdy” – Parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin”, but Donny Osmond threatens to steal the show;
(15) Terrene, “Fifty One” – Catchy indie pop good enough to carry you through another video of people holding signs with the song lyrics;
(16) Pernice Brothers, “Somerville” – Sweet sounds of Pernice Brothers, and the one camera shot had me until about 1:30 in, but the video is over 3:30 long;
(17) Locksley, “Why Not Me” – Enough of guys trying to look like The Beatles;
(18) El Perro Del Mar, “God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)” – Minimalist and elegant song and animation, very fitting;
(19) Space Needle, “Before I Change My Style” – very lo-fi indie and a grainy old home movie of a summer afternoon at the pool inspires bittersweet nostalgia;
(20) Mountain Con, “Silver Age” – Quality indie rock, but mundane video