Various Artists

Home Recordings, Vol. 2

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The second volume of Suburban Sprawl Records' compilation series of Michigan indie bands was released at the same time as Home Recordings, Vol. 1 in late 2002. Combining a variety of tones on the 12-track disc, Suburban Sprawl continued to push the proverbial envelope. The disc begins with a trio of refreshing and exuberant pop from the Pop Project. The band continues to evolve from its humble beginnings. The emergence of keyboardist Zach Curd on vocals adds a wealth of melody to the group's sound, especially on the opening track, "What Did I Say?," and "Holy Fool." Guitarist Dave Lawson takes back the vocal reins on "Everyday," with harmonic accompaniment from Curd. The Pop Project set a lively precedent to the disc that could have been matched by Ann Arbor quartet the Rants, but they chose to simmer down their normally festive live sound. "In the Middle" is a tender, acoustic gem with whispered vocals. "Miracles" is classic Rants, full of punk and passion, while "U.S. Mail" is another stripped-down track more fit for a porch than the smoky bars the band cut their teeth on. Ann Arbor is represented again by Saturday Looks Good to Me, Fred Thomas' ambitious project. Thomas sings on "Mistletoe," while Kelly Caldwell and Aleise Barnett provide vocals on "Parking Lot Blues" and the Motown-inspired "Lift Me Up." Adhering to the album title, the band recorded the songs in Thomas' home during the fall of 2002. The disc closes with three tracks by South South Million, a project by Trevor Naud and Dan Clark of Red Shirt Brigade. "Actor Victims" features a layered sound of ambient synthesizers and precise guitar. The creative electronics on "Our Stranger Bells" and "Pre Downlighters" hint at greater things to come from South South Million. Naud and Clark share vocal duties on the organic and sparse tracks. Home Recordings, Vol. 2 finished the job the first volume started: Giving a voice to abundantly creative and vibrant Michigan bands. Rarely do compilations offer multiple songs from multiple bands. What the Home Recordings series did was offer extended intimate samples from a variety of artists, making it a rare and refreshing set of releases.