Various Artists: 23 This Year: The Sub Pop Amazon Sampler

A sampler album from Sub Pop given away free on Amazon MP3.  Not bad; there’s a lot that’s like and above, but there’s also a lot that’s like or worse.  Plus I expect to come away from a collection of 23 songs absolutely head over heels about at least three or four tracks.  Here, the only song that really gets to me is Low’s “Especially Me.”

  1. Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues – The “men in dimly lit halls” line definitely echoes Simon and Garfunkel’s “words of the prophets are written on the subway walls” from “The Sound Of Silence.”  This is good, no doubt, but I’m again left shaking my head at how passionately so many people love this band.  “If I had an orchard/I’d work till I’m sore”…I don’t believe him.  Have you seen Robin Pecknold?  Like.
  2. Washed Out: Amor Fati – 80’s-type synths dream pop stuff.  I wouldn’t mind hearing more of this band, so I’ll keep an otherwise likeable track.
  3. Vetiver: Wonder Why – This is okay mild pop with a bit of jangle.  If you just can’t get enough adult contemporary, I guess.  Like.
  4. The Head And The Heart: Lost In My Mind – I know I’ve heard this somewhere.  Probably a song of the day podcast or something.  It’s really good, but it’s generally keep-level quality, not super uplifting.  However, I think my sisters-in-law, the traditional recipients of my year-end mixes, would really like this song, so it’s getting mixed.
  5. Fruit Bats: Tangie And Ray – This starts a really bad stretch from here through track 11, with three ditches and four likes.  Something about this track really rubs me the wrong way.  That first line about Tangie and Ray leaving Columbia, Maryland gets stuck in my head at the slightest provocation.  It probably doesn’t help that that melody is repeated for the entirety of the verses.  This drives me freaking nuts.  Ditch.
  6. Aurelio: Tio Sam – A world thing (Honduran).  I always feel liberal guilt over not liking super hard the world music one.  This is insanely quiet.  Really grew on me.  Like.
  7. Niki & The Dove: The Fox – Niki and Dove both make me think of Purple Rain.  Sure enough, this is like “The Beautiful Ones” and “Computer Blue” crossed with vocalizations and synths that could come straight out of a Björk song.  The Björk parts are the best.  Like.
  8. Mogwai: Rano Pano – This is so boring and dumb.  For all I’ve heard of Mogwai I can’t believe this is the best thing Sub Pop could come up with for this recording.  Ditch.
  9. Shabazz Palaces: Swerve… the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding) (clean) – [sic].  Of course I also feel white liberal guilt over not liking the hip-hop track in the collection.  Compounding the guilt is shame that I’m not worthy since this artist is so freaking buzzed.  This is fine, but it hasn’t really grabbed me.  It’s one of my common complaints about hip-hop: the sample and the chorus are just too repetitive.  Ditch.
  10. Still Corners: “Endless Summer” – Very breathy, fey stuff.  Starts off so that you could sing the start to “Tangie And Ray” over it, just adding to how much I have that song in my head.  That almost pushes it into ditch territory, but since I hate to write off a band on one song if I don’t have to, I’ll make this like.
  11. Chad VanGallen: Peace On The Rise – Reminds me of Pavement with its out-of-tune jangle and laid-back singing.  Like.
  12. J Mascis: Not Enough – A voice so immediately recognizable as J Mascis.  This starts a really good stretch.  I guess maybe just Side 2 of this album is better than Side 1, but the very start is pretty good, too.  Mix.
  13. Sebadoh: Rebound (Remastered) – Sebadoh?  Really?  This is pretty cool.  Keep.
  14. Obits: You Gotta Lose – I like a little syncopation in my punk.  This is great.  Keep.
  15. Dum Dum Girls: He Gets Me High – Didn’t think I liked Dum Dum Girls’ gauzy punk pop, but I like this.  Keep.
  16. Handsome Furs: Repatriated – Meh.  The blips and bleeps are the best part of this otherwise too-straightforward song.  Weren’t these guys a band like forever ago?  Or am I just mixing them up with the Psychedelic Furs?  I think so, but this sounds like it could have been some near hit back in the mid-80’s.  Like.
  17. The Twilight Singers: On The Corner – I feel like I’ve heard this before.  Maybe it was a song of the day or something?  Deliberate, driving rock with a slow build at the top.  Very cool.  Keep.
  18. Papercuts: Do You Really Wanna Know – More breathy fey stuff.  But, oddly, with a male singer.  The dreamy, gauzy thing works here.  More like a like but gets kept since it’s all I have of this band and I’m intrigued enough.
  19. Mister Heavenly: Bronx Sniper – Who does this remind me of?  Neil Young?  “No one gets out of here alive” but it’s not The Doors song.  Is this a cover?  Wow he sounds like Colin Meloy.  Keep.
  20. Male Bonding: Bones – Funny how I just had this one on that SPIN playlist.  I guess it’s destined for like.
  21. Avi Buffalo: How Come? – Another breathy, fey thing.  This one’s done in a falsetto, so you can’t tell if it’s a man or woman.  Based on the Sub Pop bio I think the lead singer is a guy.  But he doesn’t need to sing like that.  Like.
  22. Low: Especially Me – So awesome.  Why do I not have more Low?  Easily the best track here.  Mix.
  23. Daniel Martin Moore: O My Soul – Slow and quiet.  Nice, very personal, like it’s Jeff Buckley without the angelic voice.  Keep.

Rating:
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Mix:
“Lost In My Mind” (The Head And The Heart), “Not Enough” (J Mascis), “Especially Me” (Low)
Keep:
“Amor Fati” (Washed Out), “Rebound” (Sebadoh), “You Gotta Lose” (The Obits), “He Gets Me High” (Dum Dum Girls), “On The Corner” (The Twilight Singers), “Do You Really Wanna Know” (Papercuts), “Bronx Sniper” (Mister Heavenly) “O My Soul” (Daniel Martin Moore)
Like:
“Helplessness Blues” (Fleet Foxes), “Wonder Why” (Vetiver), “Tio Sam” (Aurelio), “The Fox” (Niki & The Dove), “Endless Summer” (Still Corners), “Peace On The Rise” (Chad VanGaalen), “Repatriated” (Handsome Furs), Bones” (Male Bonding), “How Come” (Avi Buffalo)

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