[19 September 2007]
KEXP, the venerable non-commercial radio station, has released a third volume of live and in-studio recordings and titled it, imaginatively, Live at KEXP Volume Three. The trouble with these types of compilations, which aim at presenting alternate versions of the standout tracks of indie bands-du-jour, is that beast we call the interweb. It’s why sites like Daytrotter Sessions, and Blogoteque’s Take Away Shows videos, are so successful, while an old fashioned comp like this has a tougher time being completely compelling. Further, Daytrotter (for instance) allows you to download MP3s—KEXP’s live online archive is streaming only. But KEXP’s strength lies in its influence, and in the artists it can draw to perform. Throughout, the engineers have done a superb job at capturing the sounds of these bands—from intimate indie pop to all-out electro. If you follow music on the internet you’ll recognise most of these bands/songs on Vol. 3—it collects together many that have appeared in PopMatters’ (and many others’) top albums from last year. The standout is Grizzly Bear’s “Knife”, an amazing, hollowed-out version of the song that still unfolds with the delicacy and grace of the original. Almost as impressive is Cloud Cult’s cover of Dylan’s “Tambourine Man”—propelled by a marching beat and cello/violin melodies, the track kicks on propulsively. To the comp’s credit, relatively few tracks slide by unnoticed—Lady Sovereign, the Shins and Peter Bjorn & John all offering substantively different versions of popular tunes off their latest albums. Oh well, even if it can’t quite match the currency of more nimble-footed websites, buy this to support the station. Continue to subscribe to their podcasts. Listen when you can. Because it’s a great thing that we have a place that supports artists over profits. As Live at KEXP Vol. 3 shows, it pays off for us listeners, too.