REVIEW: Various Artists – “The Co-Op Communique Vol. 3”

Music writers are lucky bastards. As a form of payment for their poetry, they get a stream, an everlasting stream, of free music. It’s a pretty good deal if you can score it. Well, to be blunt, the epic compilation series The Co-Op Communique makes YOU the music writer.

The third installment in the annual collection – out for free on Bandcamp May 26 and, as ever, compiled by the eagle-eared producer/musician/evil genius Dw. Dunphy – delivers all the gems you’d expect and will introduce you to more than a handful of rising stars in independent music. In that, the comp. does its job and then some. But is the collection, as a rising tide of independent music, any good? Oh, goddamn yes, it is. This thing screams its passions and impressive intentions from the very first song, the dynamic we’ll-show-Ben-Folds-how-it’s-done “Ghosts In Your Head” by Josh Fix, to, 30-odd tracks later, the sweet acoustics of Captain Wilberforce.

Some familiar faces in the Introverse universe steal the show. New Orleans’ Mike Indest, as ever, exudes a brilliant kind of piano balladry with “I’m Always Thinking About Her,” Daniel Amos – yes, THAT Daniel Amos – shakes up things with the excellent garage-rock of “Who’s Who Here?” and Core Device nails all the requisite moves on the acoustic-turned-metal-crunch of “Remembered As A Name.” Those looking for Dunphy’s own inventive brand of music will have to look elsewhere. (And, no, I do not appear on this one; whether that makes me biased or informed is up to the reader to decide.)

There’s some stuff on here that sounds like it copping its moves – The Ravines’ great “Dead Letters” sounds like a Heartbreakers outtake, and I say that lovingly – but those tracks are followed by more adventurous fare, such as the honey-sweet “Last Wish” by Beki Hemingway or the jangly “The Night Owl” by And How. Chris Taylor’s smoky vocals blend beautifully with acoustic guitar and a weepy pedal steel on “And Sometimes Sad.” The Deafening Colors add an interesting studio gleam to the rough-hewn guitars of “None of The Other Ones Will Do.” Vegas With Randolph plays arena rock; Chris Neri does the acoustic blues with some funny lyrics (his take on “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer?”) in “King Cobra.” And Lisa Mychols’ “Asleep Beyond A Dream” is playful but dreamy – not to mention all-too-short at 1:48.

The Co-Op Communique Vol. 3 clearly echoes the voices in Dunphy’s head – there’s a lot here that POPs, in short – but that’s not a bad thing. This is incredibly accessible independent music that wouldn’t be out of place on FM or AOR radio, if such a thing weren’t bought and owned by corporate interests. And such is the Co-Ops’ goal: to provide a free outlet where independent artists and creators can stand on each other’s shoulders to help spread the good word. They’re singing the gospel choir on Vol. 3. On May 26, why don’t you?

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