Reviewing compilation albums provides an interesting challenge for me. Judging an artist by one song rankles on me. I much prefer to have several songs in order to get a more complete idea of their style, sound, and quality. Some bands can vary wildly between songs while others remain intolerably the same. My opinion of the song on the compilation bleeds onto the rest of their catalogue. I may give one band’s track a favorable nod, only to find the rest of their combined works loathsome; the reverse is also entirely possible.
So, read on, but know that I wash my hands of responsibility should you buy an album you hate based on my opinion of one song. On the other hand, if you get one that you enjoy, I take full credit. “Thanks” will be accepted in the form of cheesecake.
Sunsets and Silhouettes (lame, lame, fucking lame title) is intended to be sold as an album as well as an attempt to introduce you to eighteen bands of which you might never have heard. The people at Planting Seeds Records have painstakingly put together a compilation that sustains the same timbre and feel throughout. With the first 10 songs categorized as “Sunsets” and the last eight labeled “Silhouettes,” I feel like I should be talking about this on a late night infomercial while wearing a Bill Cosby cardigan. I’m sorry, but it’s fucking stupid. What the hell does a sunset sound like and how does it differ from a silhouette? Aren’t silhouettes most prevalent at sunset? Unless they are trying to sell this album to middle-aged women who devour romance novels almost as fast as Ben & Jerry’s (which I think they may), it is poor marketing.
Many of the songs are simple and folksy. A lot of the artists are women with pretty voices who have taken a page from the likes of Sarah McGlaughlin and Jewel. Tracks provided by the male artists sound as if they came straight out of the sixties when everyone was trying to catch up to The Beach Boys. With a heavy leaning on acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies, these traits are perfectly represented by The Voices’ “Don’t Want to Go Back” and The Autumn Leaves’ “See The Light Again” which, I swear to God, has a similar chord progression to that of “Secret Agent Man.”
Track one on the compilation is performed by what may be the most “famous” band, Fonda. The press release points out that you might remember them from the movie Spy Kids. If you are reading this, odds are you absolutely do not remember them from Spy Kids. I did take a liking to “I Didn’t Say” by Fiel Garvie, which retains the qualities I have previously mentioned, but raises the bar with her vocals that liken to Bjork in certain intervals. Camera Obscura is another artist that deserves a listen. Once again, acoustic-guitar-and-girl-with-pretty-voice, so let’s just make that understood from now on. However, the quality of the voice combined with exceedingly well-written lyrics, makes this band stand out. Honorable mention goes to Sister Vanilla and Linda Draper whose song “Colorblind,” could have easily been written and performed by Joni Mitchell.
You need this compilation if: A) You find Neil Diamond to be a little too in your face. B) You are having a quiet dinner party and need some inoffensive background music. C) You own a coffee shop. D) You are going to make tender love to your soul-mate.