Review- “X”- Arts & Crafts

arts and crafts xreviewed by Michael Thomas

Canada’s beloved label Arts & Crafts has good reason to celebrate. It’s been responsible for unleashing highly influential acts like Broken Social Scene and Feist onto the world and continues to put out releases by very interesting artists, most recently the Vancouver synth-pop band Gold & Youth.

Arts & Crafts could have very well sat back and basked in the glory of their decade of existence, but instead they’ve released two massive (in different senses of the word) releases. Last month they released a massive 34-song compilation of greatest hits and rarities from a slew of Arts & Crafts artists like Cold Specks, Los Campesinos!, Snowblink and Stars. But apparently that wasn’t enough for them.

Just yesterday they released Arts & Crafts: X, a ten-song disc featuring collaborations. Half of the ten songs are fresh covers, while the other half are original tunes. The pairings are quite interesting, and each seems to bring out the best in both acts involved.

In some cases, the pairings are a match made in heaven. “Homage” sees Timber Timbre and Feist collaborating, and Taylor Kirk and Leslie Feist complement each other well in the  very sparse folk tune. “Lady Bird,” a cover of a Nancy Sinatra song, sees Gold & Youth and TRUST paired together. Naturally the tune bubbles with synths and dark vocals.

Other pairings are slightly less obvious, such as the very cool “Era” courtesy of Still Life Still and Zulu Winter. The song takes on a very spacey feel, opening with static-y guitar. Zeus and Apostle of Hustle, meanwhile, take on a cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” with great success. Zeus has never sounded so funky.

On the mellower side of things is “Time Can Be Overcome,” a tune by the deeply-missed Constantines. Ra Ra Riot and the Darcys cover this one, and the tune is about as melancholy as you might expect from such a combination. “Lonely Is As Lonely Does” is a study in contrasts, pairing the introspective Hayden with the passion of Jason Collett.

The album opens with an original tune called “Day of the Kid” by Broken Social Scene and Years (which is Ohad Benchetrit of Do Make Say Think among other acts). This almost seems to be less of a collaboration, as Benchetrit as worked with BSS, but the song is a pretty great one, featuring a wash of scattered voices, horns and electronic sounds. The album ends with Amy Millan and Dan Mangan covering Bob Marley’s “Chances Are.” Take a moment to hear both versions- where Marley’s acoustic tune is cheerful, Millan and Mangan bring their starkly-contrasting voices and a music-box-esque melody to make the tune very dark.

There’s two more songs to talk about, so first there’s “Nothing Good Comes to Those Who Wait” which features the dependable Chilly Gonzales alongside the stalwarts Stars. The song quickly becomes dreamy, particularly when some spoken-word starts to come in a little later.

My personal favourite on the album, though, has to go to “The Chauffeur” by the Hidden Cameras and Snowblink. Of all things, this is a cover of a Duran Duran song, but Joel Gibb’s commanding baritone voice and Daniela Gesundheit’s unmistakably piercing vocals make for an absolutely unbeatable combination.

Arts & Crafts: X is now available everywhere.

Top Tracks: “Bizarre Love Triangle”; “Era”; “The Chauffeur”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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