Various Artists

The Amos House Collection, Vol. 1

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A charity compilation that benefits Amos House -- a soup kitchen, shelter, rooming house, medical clinic, and social service provider in Providence, near the Warren, Rhode Island, headquarters of upstart indie label Wishing Tree Records -- Amos House Collection, Vol. 1 is a superb and varied collection loaded with tracks that are impossible (or nearly impossible) to find elsewhere. The Aluminum Group, Purple Ivy Shadows, Death Cab for Cutie, and slowcore stalwarts Idaho, Aden, and Spoon are only some of the artists who submitted exclusive tracks to the project, while most of the others are previously unreleased or rare EP and B-side tracks that are difficult to come by. The album opens with "Straight Line to the Kerb" from London four-piece the Departure Lounge. With its hazy gothic synths and computer-terminal keyboard blips, it is reminiscent of both the Cure and Spiritualized or Radiohead, while Tim Keegan's sleepy, romantic vocals are pure Neil Tennant. With stately horn charts reminiscent of Love's Forever Changes thrown in, it makes for a majestic mix of the New Romantics, synth-pop, space rock, and postmodern rock. Also on the dreamier side, the Aluminum Group offers a remake of the Marine Girls' "Love to Know" that has echoes of the melodic pathos in Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun," and the Ladybug Transistor's flute-led live version of "The Swimmer" is the album's most endearing song, and is a nice contrast to (while just as wonderfully loopy as) the studio version that appeared on Abermarle Sound. And Stephen Duffy continues his extended streak of remarkable but undervalued pop on the lonesome, country-tinged "Back in the Car Park" from his longtime project the Lilac Time. Purple Ivy Shadows also chime in with the rustic "Acre," which bears the untidy raggedness of indie rock, but the way in which its guitars bend and warp is pure country to the last loping, foreboding lick. Speaking of warped, Death Cab for Cutie create their usual beautiful chaos on "Lowell, MA," an alternate version from the one that appeared on their forbidden love EP. Jeff Martin and Idaho also provide a delicate little swirling number in "Stayin' Out in Front," and Aden's breathless "The S&F-ish Song" is a skittery gem. The debuts from Wishing Tree's own artists, the pixie-ish singer/songwriter Bridget and indie trio Delphine, qualify as two of the collection's nicest surprises, very much holding their own against the more established artists. Bridget's wispy "I, Aquarius" is a pensive acoustic ballad that eerily recalls Marianne Faithful's hit version of the Rolling Stones' "As Tears Go By," both melodically and in mood. Delphine's "Swear, That I Swear," on the other hand, is affecting emo-tinged rock. At the very least, Amos House, Vol. 1 is a necessary purchase for fans of any of these artists. But the album also hangs together beautifully, thanks to immaculate song sequencing. It is a loaded buffet, and almost every cut is a substantive goody worth sampling.

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