Various Artists

The Sound the Hare Heard

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The Kill Rock Stars label has already released two collections that highlighted lesser-known indie artists (2002's Fields and Streams and 2004's Tracks and Fields), so the idea for The Sound the Hare Heard isn't particularly new for them. But this time, the compilation, besides its lack of a pastorally themed title, focuses solely on singer/songwriters, softer music that recalls Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. The Sound the Hare Heard, whose title comes from a Buddhist parable about the panic a hare causes in the jungle when he (falsely) believes he has heard the beginning of the end of the world, isn't a showcase of Kill Rock Stars' bands -- in fact, many of the artists included are signed to competing labels. Instead, it's a rather pretty, carefully chosen, introspective collection of songs about fear, strength, love, anger, thought and beauty, and the subtleties that exist within those entities. The pieces are very unobtrusive, which forces the listener to reflect upon them and not just allow them to take up space in the background. Some of the musicians included, like Sufjan Stevens ("Adlai Stevenson" is from his upcoming The Avalanche album), Colin Meloy, or Imaad Wasif, are already quite well-established, while others, like Essie Jain or Lauren Hoffman, are just emerging, but they all contribute equally affecting tracks. While there is a general quiet, clean feel that connects the songs on the album, labelhead Slim Moon selected music that stays within these constraints while still exploring a variety of different sounds and influences. Laura Veirs' "Cast a Hook in Me" is poppy and almost mischievous, while Simone White's indie-folk quasi-protest song, "American War," is witty, provocative, and effective without being angry or disillusioned. The Great Lake Swimmers offer the Neil Young-esque "Where in the World Are You Now," whose echoey, layered vocal tracks emphasize the sadness already existent in the song, and Danielle Howle's dark Southern "Kill My Love for You" is plaintive and ominous, with hints of tango and jazz. It's a diverse, interesting mix, with individual parts that work well by themselves, and as part of the whole. By naming the album The Sound the Hare Heard, Slim Moon is reminding his listeners to not fall deafly into rampant trends, but to truly consider what they are listening to, and the songs on this compilation definitely provoke that kind of behavior. It's not music to play in order to enhance a mood; it's music to play to create a way of thinking that will hopefully lead to greater self- and world-understanding.

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