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We Are Not Alone: Songs for the Lo-Fi Generation, Vols. 5, 6, and 7 (Best Kept Secret)

reviewed by dave heaton

The tape label Best Kept Secret is one of the music world's best kept secrets, as label founder A;essandro Crestani is continually, quietly releasing tapes filled with songs from many of the most creative musicians around the world, all making music for love not money. BKS' We Are Not Alone: Songs for the Lo-Fi Generation series collects an array of dream-pop, electronic, indie-pop and rock musicians from all over the globe. Volumes 5, 6, and 7 are just as good as the last batch.

Volume 5 kicks this trio off in relaxed fashion, with lots of pretty synth-pop tunes, meditative art-folk and other variations of low-key pop, yet throws some more rocking tracks into the mix on Side B. Though I can say without exaggerating that none of the 15 songs is a waste of time, some of my favorites include the moving, melancholy, nicely textured piano ballad "Columbus Day," by the always-intriguing 99cent Dream; the equally gorgeous, laidback Californian rock of a band new to my ears called Tarmac ("Several Moons to You"); a stark, lovely acoustic-guitar pop song by Rivulets ("Medication"); a great Lisa Germano cover from Burnside Project ("If I Think of Love") which sounds like a church hymn crossed with trip-hop, with sprinkles of electric guitar and odd sampled bits {Side note: Check out the Burnside Project's new album on Bar-None Records, it won't leave my stereo}; and a busy, pop tune-meets-electorock mood in free-jazz style chaos from Hi God People vs Huon ("Chronic Flashlight"). There's also solid contributions from Fotomoto, Pangs, The Skygreen Leopards, Basalt, The Reds, Pinks and Purples and more.

Volume 6 opens with some regular contributors within the indie-pop world: Jason Sweeney, who offers a spacey synth-driven pop song as Other People's Children ("Birth of Steel") and a sadder, still synth-driven ballad as Simpatico ("Smalltown Boy Returned"), and Jim Rao, who as Orange Cake Mix provides a typically dreamy and delicate fuzzed-out ballad ("Phoenix Rust"). But while the bands I'm already familiar with-including also Love Letter Band, Huon, Tim Chaplin and River--provide moments of pure pop pleasure, many of the groups I've never heard of are just as good. Cellophane Sky's "Plasticene Towns" is a beautiful bit of pop theatre played with what at times sounds like children's toys, in the midst of what sounds like a party. Carnival Park's "You Fancy" and The Fantasy Lights' "All About You" are both bittersweet, bouncy love songs that stay in your head. There's also excellent, catchy pop songs from Park, It's Gonna Be Fine, Apple Orchard, and Sodajerk.

Writing about compilations with this many good songs is really difficult. Unless I write about nearly every song, something I don't have time to do, I'm inevitably leaving out some songs that people need to know about. Volume 7 provides more of the same, at just as high a level of quality. The front cover has a creepy picture of an alien, yet the music is immediately relaxing and lovely, beginning with a beautiful ambient pop song from the UK group Marine Time Keepers. Again, there's great songs here by bands I like already (Sweet William, Cannanes, Greg Murray), but most of the tape is filled with groups I've never heard of before. Two of the most exciting are Denver's "The Prettiest Eyes You Will Ever See," an exceedingly lo-fi bit of romantic punk-pop and the straightforward but emotion-packed pop-rock ballad "All Too Nice" by Twelve 24. But me giving a litany of songs I love only gets you so far-check out the band links in this review, check out the Best Kept Secret compilations, and you'll have plenty of new bands to fall in love with.

For more information, visit Best Kept Secret.

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