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Sounds Eclectic 3

Various Artists
Sounds Eclectic 3
(Palm Pictures)

In the past couple years, commercial radio has become so homogenized that I've completely stopped listening to it. I live in a town of about a quarter million people and there are roughly three stations on a dial of probably 60 that are at all worth listening to at all. One is the local NPR station (gotta give them props), another is a community radio station with hit-or-miss programming, and another is the college station. Granted, the college station is pretty hit-or-miss itself depending on what your tastes are, but I've still gotta give a station props that will drop a local screamo track next to an old-school electro track.

KCRW is a longtime station based out of Santa Monica, California, and it's reaches extend far beyond that city. A daily freeform music program entitled "Morning Becomes Eclectic" is hosted by Nic Harcourt and select pieces of this show are rebroadcast weekly on Public Radio International under abbreviated name "Sounds Eclectic." The third in a series of recordings collecting in-studio live tracks, Sounds Eclectic 3 is a pretty nice little slice of what you may expect to hear from the station (even if it does lean to the mainstream side of things) and profits from the sale of this release will benefit the non-profit station.

I mentioned above that the compilation leans towards the more mainstream side of 'indie' rock, and because it's a collection of different studio recordings, it also feels just slightly dated given the tracks that artists play (and when those respective tracks originally were released). At twelve tracks and over fifty minutes of music, there's a decent variety on the release, and there are plenty of standouts. The release opens with one in fact, as The Polyphonic Spree present a great version of "It's The Sun" that plays havoc with the original speed of the track and adds some nice tension in doing so as the large group speeds up and slows down on a dime.

As always, the Flaming Lips shine live, although the version of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" on this release is about as stripped down as they come. With just Coyne on vocals and piano backing, the track takes on a much more melancholy feel, but still works quite well. My Morning Jacket, Interpol, and Franz Ferdinand all show up and drop nearly spot-perfect versions of "One Big Holiday," "Untitled," and "Take Me Out" respectively while Radiohead also joins the stripped-down camp with their quiet guitar version of "Go To Sleep." Without a doubt, though, the most amazing track on the release is Iron & Wine's achingly beautiful cover of the Flaming Lips (see how we've come full circle?) "Waitin' For A Superman." Once again, Sam Beam somehow takes the track and with only an acoustic guitar and vocals takes it to a transcendent place. Other artists included on the compilation are Damien Rice, Jem, Paul Weller, Sarah McLachlan, Kinky, and Steve Earle. A couple amazing moments mixed in with many passable ones, but it's all for a good cause.

Rating: 7