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Various Artists

Dorm Sessions Volume V

(Heavy Rotation; US: 27 Feb 2008)

Another year, another Dorm Sessions. At the Berklee College of Music, a program is created in which students get their hands on all aspects of the music biz (marketing, A&R, etc.) while putting out a compilation album of local-area artists. It’s a great program, but let’s face it: doe-eyed sophomores on the quad don’t usually reinvent the wheels of pop music by their lonesome. With this year’s edition, we’re treated to a band that sabotages their own pop songs with oddball instruments (Peasantry), a group that somehow combines the most annoying aspects of emo and bar-rock into a hookless whole (Honest Thomas), and a quartet of pop-rockers who excel at writing vanilla-bland rock numbers that are instantly forgettable (With Engines). Conversely, there are also some truly stand-out tracks to be found here: be it Kevin Ross’ immaculately produced R&B relationship lament “Pushing Me Away”, Annie Lynch’s avant-quirk ballad “Charlotte’s Web”, or Rebel & The Truth’s surprisingly potent rap-radio nostalgia-trip “Reminisce”, it’s hard to miss. Yet two artists absolutely shine above the rest: one is called Turkuaz (which sounds like Jamiroquai performing George Clinton’s life with CliffNotes brevity), the other is a guy named Christopher Barnes (who crafts cathartic piano ballads that are so good they manage to sidestep cries of pretension with almost zero effort). It’s another year, and yes, it’s another mixed bag of an album. But just like every year, you can never fault these kids (or this disc) for lack of ambition.

Rating:

Evan Sawdey started contributing to PopMatters in late 2005, and has also had his work featured in publications such as SLUG Magazine, The Metro (U.K.), Soundvenue Magazine (Denmark), the Daily Dot, and multiple national newspapers. Evan has been a guest on RevotTV's "Revolt Live!" as well as WNYC's Soundcheck (an NPR affiliate), was the Executive Producer for the Good With Words: A Tribute to Benjamin Durdle album (available for free at GoodWithWordsAlbum.com), and wrote the liner notes for the 2011 re-release of Andre Cymone's hit 1985 album A.C. (Big Break Records), the 2012 re-release of 'Til Tuesday's 1985 debut Voices Carry (Hot Shot Records), and many others. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. You can follow him @SawdEye should you be so inclined.


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