Various Artists

Teenbeat Sampler 2004

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Teenbeat Sampler 2004 delivers over an hour of new music from the current roster of Mark Robinson's label, ranging from stalwarts like Flin Flon to newer acts like the Fontaine Toups, the latest project from Versus' former bassist. Regardless of how long the acts have been with Teenbeat, the songs on this collection are very much of a piece, spanning the shimmering indie pop, slightly abrasive rock, and experimental touches that have marked all of Robinson's projects (and the bands he's supported) ever since Unrest outgrew its hardcore tendencies. But even though the Teenbeat sound is well defined, it still isn't predictable or boring; Toups' "I Don't Like What You're Saying" and the Naysayer's "On Fire" are fairly straightforward pieces of confessional singer/songwriter pop, but they still fit in well with more lighthearted tracks like the disco-pop of Evelyn's "So So Fresh" and +/-'s sparkly "Walk in a Straight Line." The slightly soulful indie pop of Volumia's "You Are the Sun" and HollAnd's revved-up but still pretty "Soft-Core War" are two of the sampler's other standout tracks, and while interludes like Jonny Cohen's "(Theme From) Marine Boy" and Stick Insect's oddity "Stick Insect (Theme)" are less essential, they do add a sense of ebb and flow to the track listing. Robinson's own contributions, first with Flin Flon on the fizzy "Bonaventure" and again on "Silence!," which was produced by HollAnd's Trevor, also add to the collaborative feel of the album and the label; indeed, Teenbeat Sampler 2004's liner notes helpfully point out which of these acts are descended from older Teenbeat bands such as Toulouse, Aden, Hot Pursuit, and, of course, Versus. Speaking of that band, the Pacific Ocean, Ed Baluyut's project with Connie Lovatt, turn in a melancholy, lighter-than-air song in "People to People." While it may be a little too long for its own good, this collection is still entertaining proof that Teenbeat remains among the top indie labels.

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