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Cheer Up Emo Kid

Various Artists
Post Marked Stamps
(Tree Records)

Although I don't own an abundant amount of music that could be categorized as emo rock, I'll be the first to admit that I have a definite weak spot for the good stuff and manage to pick up things randomly that tug at something inside me with their grandiose sound and (sometimes overblown) lyrics. As a group of nine 45" records, the Post Marked Stamps was quite a successful foray into the sound with both a unique concept behind the music, very nice packaging, and good music from a wide variety of bands.

If you weren't lucky enough to pick up all nine of the small platters, or if you're more the digital technology person, you're still in luck as now all 18 songs from the series of splits are available in one place on a super-long play CD. Because of space limitations, a couple of the tracks have been edited somewhat, but if you haven't heard them before, it's pretty darn hard to notice, and you still get a huge swath of tracks. The whole affair is fortunately more hit than miss, and there are a few tracks on the disc that would make it worth purchase if you only got them.

The disc starts off with an amazing, almost 6-minute track by the group Aspera Ad Astra. The five piece band manages to incorporate a very rich and different sound with their nice use of an analog keyboard as well as two-part male-female vocal harmonies in addition to the standard instrumentation. Proving they don't need much on the vocal side of things to make a point, Cerberus Shoal turns in a short, rousing number entitled "A Lighthouse in Athens Part 1." The trumpet-tinged track has only faint, undiscernable, breathy vocals, and easily sets a mood with its inclusion of water lapping against the shore.

Now-defunct Braid contribute "Forever Got Shorter" to the series (the split with the Get Up Kids is now the most collectable record in the entire series). It's a great track, even by Braid standards, but the Get Up Kids still manage a one-up with their completely amazing track (and nicely titled--see if you can note the movie reference) "I'm A Loner Dottie, A Rebel..." The raucous track moves along in their usual frenetic fashion, but they seem to have found the perfect hooks of guitars, drums and vocals as I can't seem to get the track off repeat. Sure, they've always had the ability to write catchy songs, but this one is on new levels.

Critical favorites Rainer Maria deliver yet another great track with "Pincushion." Still Life contributes a nice, acoustic track, "Looks Like Tomorrow." One track that actually feels a bit out of place and stumbles somewhat is by big names (and also now defunct) A Minor Forest. The track (which was apparently originally composed for a horror movie) is a thick and garbled mess and really doesn't do the band very much justice. It sounds like a thrown-together outtake from their Inindependence release and really just sounds out of place.

Still, it's one of only a couple mis-steps on the disc (another is the somewhat over-long Jen Wood song "Sheltering Arms For The Birds"), and the quality and quantity of the rest of the disc really does make up for it. Other contributors include Ida, Very Secretary, Tim Kinsella (of Chicago art-rock darlings Joan Of Arc), Giants Chair, Compound Red and others. It's a solid release full of songs that you really can't find anywhere else and from the sound of the liner notes, it was quite a labor of love. Those always sound best.

Rating: 7.25