Various - My Favorite Songwriters (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


My Favorite Songwriters (2004)

Five One, Inc.

The thrill in running a label is best felt by the heads themselves. To the casual follower, a tenth release from a label might not seem like a big deal, but the self-proposed admission that you've overcome obligatory financial obstacles and managed to survive the pitfalls of beginners' error in running a record label must be a terribly exciting realization. With this in mind, Five One Records celebrates their tenth release "anniversary" with this: the My Favorite Songwriters compilation. The label celebrated by asking their favorite songwriters from bands such as Cave In, Sparta, No Knife, Hey Mercedes, Cursive and more to contribute solo tracks and were rewarded with a mostly-pleasant twelve-song effort as a result.

Ryan Ferguson of No Knife fame starts off the compilation with a song stunningly different from that of anything by his full-time indie rock outfit, as he trades angular hooks in for balanced chord strumming and soft, yearning whispers for vocals; the first minute and a half I could swear I was listening to the new Elliott Smith. The vocal similarities are strange considering Ferguson has never really provoked such a comparison before with his inflection, but here it's admittedly dead on. Cave In's Stephen Brodsky goes nearly five minutes with "Beautiful Breakup" (which, obviously, is hardly a trace similar to his band's early days), but the track's soft pace is fluid, and Brodsky's experience as a solo artist shines through brightly, as his comforting voice never grates. Bob Nanna (Braid/Hey Mercedes) puts forth "I'd Rather Be Wine Drunk" from his City On Film project, and it isn't anything like his normal outfit, with intentionally ancestral production on his voice and the tonal range characteristics of a soprano, both of which appear in an abrupt, seemingly awkward track that seems an odd choice to close the album considering its blunt ending.

Lars Heintz of Sister Sonny contributes a rather pointless, minute-long barrage of moog-induced noise which acts as the first of two interludes. The other one, "Am Jam" from Pretty Girls Make Graves's Derek Fudesco, is an amiable, sweet upbeat number that works in favor of its diversity (in mood, anyway) against the rest of the album.

Most of the times however, the ambassadors put forth contributions expectedly in the vein of the respective bands they represent. Jim Ward uses some somewhat-spacey atmospherics that wouldn't sound out of place on either of Sparta's last albums, and his throaty croon tops off "These Years" well. Despite some peculiar electronics, "Stranger Than Strangers" is still much closer in feel to the last Good Life effort than Cursive's last, as Tim Kasher's pitiful pleas sound like B-side material to Album Of The Year but is nonetheless a nice home-recorded effort, recorded on his computer just prior to last Christmas.

The midsection drags a bit from the songs by Arabella Harrison (Jejune / The And Ors) and Dan Hargest with Sextet (Pollen). Both contain choruses that just seem to forcefully trade sincerity for adult contemporary, perhaps a bit overdramatic with each's respective bells and whistles. Things are however mixed up nicely with the songs by Japanese acts Corner (Masafumi Isobe) and Hisashi Yoshino with M.A.G.O. It certainly gives the personality of the record a cultured feel if nothing else, with both songs sung in their native language and the lyrics printed as such. The first is relatively accessible all things considered, with the latter's disjointed, stop-start experimentation and male-female dual vocals a bit of a stretch.

The layout is charming, with watercolor artwork and full lyrics for each song - both of which are usually exempt from compilations. It gives the whole package a really full, solidified feel, essentially letting you know you're getting your money's worth. Most of the tracks are winners and the rest serve as sufficient background noise, but as a whole, the refreshing idea feels unusually warm for this time of the year.

Ryan Ferguson (No Knife) - On Elvira Street
Arabella Harrison (Jejune / The And Ors) - Last Chance