Various Artists

Invited to Dinner

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This 24-track disc compiles live performances at the Red Square, a small performance space in Philadelphia. The dizzying variety of performances from 1999-2001 starts off with "Begins" by the Thrift Shop, a side project of Neal Rameriez of the Skywriters and the Snow Fairies. Red Square Records owner Jen Turrell appears on the second track, the soft and gentle "Trucker Time." Turrell also appears with Jayme Guokas on a performance of "Irene," a reserved twee pop gem. Kevin Barker of Aden appears on the third track with his impressive side project, Currituck County. Steward's "World Weary and Wise" is a startling and impressive track, while Calvin Johnson's "Milquetoast Brigade" is a direct and charming acoustic number. Jason Traeger's "One and One" is reminiscent of Franklin Bruno's solo work, with its sly wit and simple acoustic arrangements. Dear Nora appears on track 12 with a rousing version of "Sad City Pt. 2," while "Lonely Summer Days" by A Boy Named Thor is one of the most subtly powerful tracks in the collection. Kelly Slusher's "Knee Deep" is a steady, bittersweet track, while Rabbit in Red's "Blue Jay" is an enchanting lo-fi song featuring Turrell yet again. The disc nears an end with Red Light District's subdued "A Million Years" and the Escargo-gos' festive "Underneath the Sun." Ricky Pang ends the disc with a brief monologue. Invited to Dinner sounds impressively clear despite the lo-fi acoustics of many of the bands on the disc, as well as the sound limits of the Red Square. The collection excels because of the stellar performances by some of indie rock and indie pop's most engaging acts.