Great Listening All Year 'Round,
This review is from: Calendar Songs Volume 1 (MP3 Music)
Calendar Songs offers a jaunty and timely sprint through modern electronica-inflected alt-pop, with songs that mark the days more effectively than many a dash on the traditional pop treadmill.
Calendar Songs Volume One followed a collaborative Creative Commons game plan. Calendar Girl, also known as Freeform Five vocalist Tamara Barnett-Herrin, created 12 vocal tracks--each titled by month. Each month, she posted one to her own website, and to the Creative Commons website CCmixter. Her vocals and lyrics are entirely enchanting.
So often remix "opportunities" arise in the stifling air of re-doing the done--and are based upon re-inventing an artist's track. Yet Calendar Girl tried a different tack. Rather than creating a fully-finished work to 'hand down' to listeners, she supplied only a vocal track and a simple keyboard melody. Rather than "trickling down" the songs from "on high", she invited musicians world-wide to join her to "percolate up" new songs, using her a capella track to create a new song rather than merely to remix a completed track. She "risked" her vocal track without overbearing stage directions, to encourage others to participate in a project to create new songs.
The gamble paid off handsomely. Four hundred remixes resulted, from artists from several continents. Of these, Calendar Girl picked her favorite song for each month. Then a new process of refinement began. She returned to the studio to record additional vocals. In some cases, collaborators added to the arrangements.
The resulting album provides the listener with a diverse and enjoyable
year's worth of songs. Duckett's "July (Split Shine Boy)" sets Tamara's vocals in a piano piece that is two parts Cole Porter, one part post-bop, and two parts pure 70s pop joy. Tamara's lyrics here, as throughout the album, are evocative and knowing--and yet not literal or obvious. Every idea is not tied down like a pinned butterfly--but instead loosed to hover in the arrangement.
Ditto Ditto's "June (a la Parissienne)" sets a joyful lyric in a Paris street scene, while Incoherent Mumble Train's "February (Mumblemix)" has a sleek electronica grace that rides its own Metro. Ross Lorraine and Loveshadow provide gracefully orchestrated pop magic in the "April" and "May" tracks, while sleeperspaceborn adds a dreamy post-psychedelic feel to "August (Evercolor)". As one might expect, the production values of the winning songs are all intriguing and original.
So many times alt-pop can seem like a mere update of reworn songs of troubled love over stray acoustic guitar arpeggios, while electronica sometimes gets mired in an endlessly restated dancefloor sensibility.
Calendar Songs Volume I avoids the worn grooves and runs on new paths.
Calendar Songs Volume I uses our sharing culture to arrive at a different place--a place in which intelligent lyrics and a winning voice meld with work not easily pegged by genre or tired cliche'. It's worth a long listen--every month of the year.