Various Artists - Arts & Crafts

Based in Toronto, Canada, Arts & Crafts is a record label, artist management, production house and distribution company all rolled into one. To quote their website, they are "dedicated to the development and proliferation of beauty and greatness in all disciplines of the arts." Musically, their interests include Broken Social Scene, New Buffalo, Feist and other less known artists, at least in Australia. This compilation put together by Arts & Crafts features five of the artists they are currently involved with.


To be honest, I'd only ever heard of two of the artists on this album prior to picking it up, that being Stars and Broken Social Scene, the ever-expanding group that can include anywhere up to 16 members. Two of their tracks are included on this album. The first to appear is the 2003 release 'Stars and Sons'. A typically unique whirling and breezy pop song, with circular guitars that build and build, layer upon layer. If this impresses, wait until their next track, 'Almost Crimes', which appears at number 7 on the album. Harmonic guitars and perfectly blended vocals combine with wild woodwinds to create a song that, in parts, is vaguely simular to a Radiohead freak out.


Personally, the find of the album would have to be the two songs by Stars. Good friends and often collaborators with the boys and girls of Broken Social Scene, Stars are a band that too few people know about. The first track of this compilation, 'Elevator Love Letter', is off their 2003 album 'Heart' and it combines sweet lyrics and catchy melodies. Their second song, from their latest album 'Set Yourself on Fire', is a blissful merge of warm bass, earthy percussion, topped off with vocalist Amy Millan's sweet voice. A very nice track indeed.


Another band to appear on the album is Apostle of the Hustle. This interesting outfit, once again from Canada, has two of their songs included on this compilation, and two very different songs they are. The first, 'Sleepwalking Ballad', with its intense guitars and smooth vocals, is simular to a Broken Social Scene number. Their second song, 'Gleaning' is very different. A chilled-out blend of deep baselines, clean acoustic strumming, background whistling with whispered vocals in another language makes it somewhat of a strange track that stands out from the others on the album.


Jason Collett, guitarist with Broken Social Scene also gets a look in on the album with two tracks off his own compilation of early works (pre Broken Social Scene) entitled 'Motor Motel Love Songs'. His relaxed singer-songwriter style adds another dimension to this already diverse compilation. But one can't help but feel his song 'Bitter Beauty', which closes the album, doesn't quite fit. This typical acoustic guitar based catchy sing-along, seems too "artificial" for the rest of the album and it just doesn't mould well with the creative genius of the likes of Broken Social Scene and Stars. The final group to appear on this compilation are Valley of the Giants, whose line up also includes a member of Broken Social Scene. Their one and only song to be included is a slow, down-beat track that never really evolves and starts to wear thin at 6 and a half minutes in length.


Arts & Crafts is a good compilation album. The songs included from Broken Social Scene and Stars are gorgeous, definite highlights of the album. The three other artists to appear are also good, but one feels the songs from Jason Collett just don't fit.

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