Various Artists : Tsunami Relief

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It’s difficult to review benefit projects. I mean, really, how do you critique something that’s for a worthy cause? Unless you’re truly a cold and heartless bastard, you can’t. What makes it easier sometimes is when the project is just so damn good that you don’t have to say anything other than how cool it is. Case in point, the double CD venture from Filter Magazine and Urban Outfitters. The former being one of the better print music magazines out there, and the latter being the `bricks and mortar’ version of the O.C. (a varying mix of too trendy clothing, but great overhead music.) All of the proceeds from the album go to the UNICEF Tsunami Relief Fund, so you can own one of the best compilations in recent memory and not feel bad about spending the money. If Bush senior and Clinton can get together on the issue, and hell, even become fast friends, then can’t indie kids and teen fashionistas join forces as well?

Almost every song on the compilation is some kind of alternate version or previously unreleased track. There are a few exceptions, but far too few to merit second thoughts of purchase. The comp kicks off with a song that I was on pins and needles to hear, that being Death Cab for Cutie’s rendition of the Cure’s “Love Song.” As opposed to the Postal Service’s usual deconstruction of cover songs, DCFC’s covers are generally extremely true to the original and this is no exception. “Love Song” is the only cover on the album but is a perfect choice for sending our love and efforts overseas. Britt Daniel from Spoon steps up to the plate to remix Interpol’s “Slow Hands” to perfection. In my opinion, the sign of a good remix is that it stands apart so much from the original that you simply can’t settle on a preference, they just became distinctly different songs. Daniel turns the song into an even more staccato and punkier track.

Another example of a great remix on the compilation is the Headman remix of Franz Ferdinand’s “The Dark of the Matinee”, in which, believe it or not, the song becomes even more of a dance track. Other songs on the album are b-sides of singles including Rilo Kiley’s UK flipside to “Portions for Foxes”, “American Wife”. With songs like this, this benefit becomes a dream for completionists, wanting to get their hands on hard to find songs or non-album tracks. In other words, this isn’t your run of the mill benefit album. No single song as a centerpiece, a la Band Aid or USA for Africa, not just a concert, a la The Concert for Bangladesh. This compilation just screams quality from start to finish.

The double CD is a perfect mix, combining old and new, studio and live, up and coming and already established. In other words, this is a CD that people would be buying even if it weren’t for charity. Even some that aren’t for charity (i.e. the producers are trying to make some money from it) have some skippable tracks. Not so here. It’s hard to pick out standout tracks from such a packed venture, but here’s some of the ones that doubly impressed me: Wilco’s live version of “Jesus, etc.”, Desert Sessions 7 & 8’s “Hanging Tree,” Magnet’s “Heaviest Heart,” The Go! Team’s “Huddle Formation,” Kaiser Chiefs’ “Take My Temperature,” Earlimart’s “Lullaby,” LCD Soundsystem’s “Yr City’s a Sucker” 7″ version, but specifically Mercury Rev’s Kevin Shields-esque “In a Funny Way.” I was already looking forward to their upcoming album The Secret Migration, but this song sealed it. What a great thing, huh? A source for great music and a clear conscience, all in one fell swoop. Cheers.

Similar Albums:
KCRW- Sounds Eclectic series
Various Artists- Future Soundtrack for America
Various Artists- Music from the O.C. mixes

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