Various Artists : Mile
When most people think of Pacific Northwest indie labels, the first thing that comes to mind is heavyweight Sub Pop. Next, it’s most likely the Olympia punk mecca Kill Rock Stars. Then, probably K, Calvin Johnson’s lo-fi haven. Then, a number of other small labels come to mind — Suicide Squeeze, Barsuk, Chainsaw — and then it starts to get a little thin. Yet, somehow, while you weren’t looking, a small label out of Portland called Hush put out fifty records. Imagine that! Actually, it’s technically 51, considering Graves’ newest is HSH051. Nevertheless, at 50, the label put out a compilation of unreleased material by their artists to commemorate. And it’s damn good!
It’s not hard to fathom a Hush records compilation being enjoyable, because all of their artists are talented and unique. They are, after all, responsible for releasing the first records by The Decemberists, Graves, Blanket Music, The Places and Kind of Like Spitting. And each of these bands, among others, is represented on Mile.
Graves’ “Honey Pot,” recently released on the group’s latest, To Sur With Love, opens the disc with some quirky drum machines and low-key acoustic strums. Toothfairy, founder Chad Crouch’s laptop project, follows with the sleepytime Postal Service vibe of “Sorry.” And Corrina Repp’s glacial “I’ll Walk You Out” is starkly beautiful in its bareness.
The band with the most star power here, The Decemberists, are represented with a gem from their Castaways and Cut-outs days titled “I Don’t Mind.” It’s far more stripped-down than anything off their recent Picaresque disc, sounding more like Belle and Sebastian with an accordion. The Places’ “The Damn Insane Asylum” is another standout, Amy Annelle’s muted vocals barely hovering over a melancholy melody. Then there’s Kind of Like Spitting’s “Hips,” which is folky but catchy, to which I can’t help but be reminded of (Yo La Tengo’s) James McNew’s Dump project. And I’ll always enjoy something from Blanket Music, whose “Ballgame Song” marks yet another fantastic entry.
There are a number of other interesting tracks, including a jazzy ditty by Esperanza Spalding, lovely pop from Reclinerland, fuzzy slow-core from Norfolk and Western, and popping-flexing electro-pop from Bobby Birdman. Though some of these are alternate mixes, demos and outtakes, they still make for quite a listen. Hush is still a young label, but judging by the talent on this record, will most certainly become a household name in time.
Various Artists – Fields and Streams
Various Artists – Project:Echo
Various Artists – Preserve, Volume 1
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.