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.
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