Listening room (album reviews)
Compulation Volume One: Songs From North Carolina, Various Artists (Pox World Empire, 2003)
A good mix CD is a powerful thing.
It was one particularly good compilation album — Asheville Homegrown (Onion Music, 2001) — that started me writing about the local-music scene in the first place.
I got my copy from Piedmont Charisma vocalist Charles Corriher, who’d been given a batch of the things as sole payment for his group’s single contribution to the album — a short, catchy number called “Get With the Spinoff.” (I suspect Charles only gave me a CD because he had no idea what to do with them all, and wasn’t in desperate need of novelty beer coasters at the time.)
Now, three years later, I wish I could say that fate has since pressed yet another skull-shatteringly good local-music compilation into my hands, and again reshaped my world. But that wouldn’t be true.
This time, it’s just a highly listenable mix CD from a gathering of regional artists. Ironically enough, though, this one was also brought to me by virtue of its connection with self-same, unfairly indescribable local act Piedmont Charisma.
Compulation is a terribly nice collection. Almost all of its 21 tracks are instantly catchy, and in a fair world, completely worthy of extensive radio play. The bands represented are, in a very broad sense, local. All hail from North Carolina, which — regardless of inter-scene in-fighting — is much, much more local than, say, New Mexico.
“Governor’s Daughter,” the lead-off track by the irrepressibly chill Rosebuds, easily challenges the best rock cuts I’ve heard coming from anywhere in the last few years. Its cool vocals and fuzzy keyboards evince a vaguely British-sounding detachment that’s ultimately smacked back down to the band’s American roots by a healthy fistful of distorted garage guitar.
Then comes the meat, in the succulent dreariness of the Bjork-meets-P.J. Harvey tune “Yes Sir, Yes Way” by Des_Ark; in the catchy, acoustic mope-rock of Portastatic‘s “Skinny Glasses Girl”; and in the nostalgia and thickly layered emotion of North Elementary‘s “Turn Up, Stay Home.” Gorgeous moments, all — and well worth the trouble of tracking down this album.
At the collection’s worst (The Cold Sides‘ distractingly jerky sonic experiment “Profiles,” for instance), its intent still rings clear. Even the meandering thematic confusion of Cantwell Gomez & Jordan‘s “Music for Gnome-Ladz” isn’t exactly bad.
Asheville’s contribution, the long-awaited new Piedmont Charisma song “Young Trust,” falls almost precisely between the poles of Nearly Brilliant and Doesn’t Actively Suck.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s hardly a bad song. In fact, it’s probably one of the band’s most kinetically charged tracks to date. That said, it can’t quite be filed among the collection’s most accessible offerings.
Still, in selecting dignitaries to represent Asheville’s singularly weird music scene, this North Carolina compilation could have done a lot worse than Piedmont Charisma.
Rating: 4 out of 5.