You probably have heard of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month (each November). Maybe you’ve tried it, and maybe—against all odds—you’re one of those people who actually finished it. You should probably share your congratulations with the folk at FAWM as well, in which you are challenged to make 14 songs in the span of February. It’s an actual competition, it’s been going on for a few years now, and indie Rebels Trust Records puts out some of the best from each year. Volume 2 (covering stuff from 2006) is a glimpse into the bedrooms and amateur studios of people who don’t have the budgets that major labels provide—they just have spirit and heart, and that’s almost all that matters.
No, you haven’t heard of any of these artists, but there’s a good chance that someday you will. Given the eclectic nature of, well, America, it’s not surprising to hear the compilation move from feel-good pop instrumentals (Oliver Bixby’s excellent “Stars May Fall”) to carnival-esque accordion ballads (KB EP’s “A World of Black & White”). The best moments, however, happen in songs that proudly shake off the amateurish nature of the recording environment. Of the two female-songwriter ballads featured here, Margaret Bonnell’s “Abigail” may be called “raw” due to mic scratches and pickups, but it’s Julie Moffitt’s stunning and heartbreaking “Girlfriend” that outshines it, transcending its Casio keyboard backing because it’s a stronger song that’s sung with far more conviction. Even the MIDI-synth ballad “She Brings the Rain (When She Leaves)” that closes the album (as performed by Robert Myers) manages to stand out in its own right. Other highlights include Andy Conrad’s bouncing “Evergreen” and FAWM mastermind Burr Settles’s own “Jill of All Trades”, but the only thing more satisfying is knowing that there are hundreds—nay, thousands—more excellent and fantastic songs out there in the archives (check their website), and even more yet to be written. Perhaps the next one will be yours.