Various Artists: @ Home: @ Sunrise / @ Home: @ Sunset

Christine Hsieh

Various Artists

@ Home: @ Sunrise@ Home: @ Sunset

Label: Moonshine
US Release Date: 2001-09-25

With enough chill-out compilations out there to fill a giant-sized bargain bin, it's going to take a really good album to impress me. As it stands, many on the market right now fall into two camps. Either they're too heavy on the whole "ambient" concept, rendering the entire mix a soporific exercise in synth and string combinations, or they're misguided to the point where a collection of otherwise nice songs jangles together into a big, hairy mess. The new @ Home series from Moonshine Music is a good start for the label, known more for their party-ready output than easy-on-the-ears fare. Though nowhere near perfect, @ Sunrise and @ Sunset succeed in creating a mood without falling headfirst into somnolent misery or over-wrought eclecticism.

Presumably, the idea behind a so-called "Sunrise" compilation is to recreate the serenity and magnificence of the dawn of a new day. @ Sunrise puts forth a noble effort, featuring some excellent songs from lesser-known artists as well as downbeat interpretations of club classics. Goldfrapp's quirky voice makes an appearance here with "Paperbag", a darkly sentimental, haunting tune which barely rises above a whisper. DJ Food also contribute an unusual track, lending their signature off-kilter instrumentation to an unusual orchestral arrangement. "The Crow" begins unassumingly before slowly morphing into a strange pastiche of sinister double bass, lilting clarinet, pitched strings, and scattered drumming.

Unfortunately, this is one comp that can't seem to make up its mind. Starting lethargically with the Chicane-aping "Greece 2000" by 3 Drives and moving into an out-of-date and somewhat boring Jam & Spoon ragga-based remix of Moby's old rave classic, "Go", the mix proceeds to delve briefly into leftfield. This is all well and good, but the songs shift abruptly and spoil any developing sense of atmosphere and mood. After this diversion of sorts, @ Sunrise returns to the dramatic synth washes and lush strings typical of most chill-out discs. Electric Skychurch's "Deus" boasts a voice straight from the Vienna Boys Choir, lending a weirdly religious slant to the song. And as much as I hate to bash Andy Weatherall, the offering under his Sabres of Paradise guise, "Smoke", stinks of cheesy '80s romantic comedy soundtrack fare.

Somewhat controversially, the folks at Moonshine (specifically Steve Levy and Christian Dwiggins, the label's head honchos who compiled and digitally mixed both @ Home discs) decided to include a couple of trance classics from, oh, the days when trance was actually really good. For those who have not had the privilege of experiencing BBE's "7 Days and One Week" and Energy 52's classic, "Café Del Mar", when they came out in all their emotional, uplifting, trance-tastic glory, the damped-down remixes on the album will be a treat. We're talking liberal use of rustling wind chimes, serene synth lines, and rolling bass lines. But for those who remember the energy and uncontrollable euphoria of the originals, listening to these remixes is nothing short of frustrating. Where's the incessant beat, the nervous tension of a double-time snare roll, and most importantly, the release? Nowhere to be found, of course, as this is an album to relax to, after all.

@ Sunset comes a bit closer to satisfying picky listeners, likely due to the common perception in clubbing circles of a sunset as preamble to a night full of partying. Thus, this mix has a broader spectrum of more upbeat songs, though they again seem to fall in a strange and discontinuous order. Alex Gopher's classic house tune, "The Child", shoulders up to a bizarre number by Wally Brill. Considering the song "A Loop in Time" is remixed here by Banco de Gaia, it comes as no real surprise that the end result is a cheesy world-music rendition complete with serious overtones and a bombastic opera sample. Weird transitions aside, there are some stellar tracks here. Excellent German outfit De-Phazz, featuring Pat Appleton, submit "The Mambo Craze", a wonderfully kitschy tune with a properly futuristic twist, and Goldfrapp makes another appearance with "Utopia".

There are a few eyebrow-raising numbers here, but the overall effect is a touch more inspiring than @ Sunrise. With stronger tracks overall, @ Sunset does justice to a properly blazing end to the day. Though neither groundbreaking nor absolute rubbish, the @ Home series does a good job of mixing up tracks from such admirable labels as Hooj Tunes, Mole Listening Pearls, and F Communications. A notable first step for Moonshine, @ Home will do a fine job of introducing those previously familiar only with harder sounds to the wide world of chilled tunes.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton

9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton

8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge

7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge

6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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