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Seen * Unseen

Various Artists
Seen * Unseen: A Benefit For The Evergreen Center For Street Youth
(Absalom Recordings)

It's hard for me to argue with compilation releases that benefit a good cause. A privately funded center in Toronto, The Evergreen offers food, medical and dental care, arts programs, and more for thousands of homeless youth in Canada each year. Granted, if you're the giving type, you'd probably do better giving your money straight to the source, but just in case you wanted to get some great new music while contributing a little to the cause, this compilation will probably be your cup of tea. With 15 tracks and well over an hour of music, there's also a pretty wide variety of music to choose from, and although it doesn't all quite hit the mark, the tracks that do make up for things.

The album opens up with "Stand Apart" by Kelly Wingate, and if you're hoping for something wacky, you'd best skip past it. Although it's a nicely done track, it sounds like it could compete with mainstream alternative in the heartfelt ballad department. Fortunately, the very next track by Dan Donovan entitled "Holy Bull" offers up sort of a lo-fi country/hip-hop romp that is easily one of the most catchy on the entire release. If Beck was still being innovative, basically this is what he'd sound like.

The Czars (fresh off their Absalom Music From The Film I'd Rather Be Gone EP release) contribute the long, live version of the cinematic track "Catepillar" while Sixteen Horsepower offer up an awesome remix of "Clogger" that ups the ante of the entire album about halfway through things with a thicker rhythm section and growling guitars. Other Absalom acts get into things as well as The Denver Gentlemen contribute a live version of "Vulture Girl" from their Introducing disc while Charity Empressa offer up another nice droning track called "I Want Peace" (that falls in line nicely with the work on their recent Self-Titled disc).

In addition to those mentioned, bigger name artists like Frank Black And The Catholics, Joe Henry, and Giant Sand contribute songs as well. As is the case with many compilations, though, it's the lesser-known groups that contribute the tracks that make up most of the highlights. The Psalters offer up a nice, Eastern-influenced track with "We're All Lepers Here" and Sufjan Stevens adds the quiet and beautiful "Damascus." The overall vibe of the release is sort of a mixture of alt-country/indie/experimental rock with other little influences thrown in as well. Overall, a good cause and good music, so there's not a whole lot else to ask for.

Rating: 7