Various – Crystal Top Music Presents [CrystalTop Music – CTM-CD004]
I love compilations such as these. These are the compilations I strive to find in dusty record stores, damp charity shops and at the bottom of destroyed cardboard boxes at car boots. Compilations like these that are so varied, spanning various genres, filled with new music that you’ve likely never heard of before, introducing you and your friends to new acts and performers you’d have otherwise missed.
Sadly I didn’t find this compilation at a record store, nor charity shop or car boot – instead I had to resort to ordering it online.
Ok give me my due, this was the first compilation like this that I ended up owning. Without this release I would have never guessed such varied compilations existed in the world, as prior my only exposure to compilations were the more common mainstream pop offerings such as NOW and Smash Hits.
Of course as is always the case releases special as this have a story behind them. I cast my mind back almost 10 years ago now, I was old enough to watch “grown-up” American drama’s like LOST and Prison Break with my mother that were aired on satellite television. She had found out about a new show, Hidden Palms. I loved this show, I don’t know why in hindsight it doesn’t hold up that well in comparison to the US blockbuster series I would come to watch in the decade to come, but more than the show I loved two other things. The first was the scene of Amber Heard running through a field of sprinklers in a white dress, and the second was the theme song, “Blind” by Mega Bass.
Now the issue with this theme song was it was a real pain the ass to locate on the internet, not because it was 2007/8 internet or because I was 14 and unable to use Google properly. No because unfortunately the band decided on an extremely generic name for themselves, which would bring up numerous happy hardcore acts instead. I searched on and off for a while to find this track, at the time I used to locate most of my music on the wonderful Limewire/Kazaa Gold software. With endless supply of “free” music I began to develop a hunger for new and different music, and so I began using iTunes to discover a lot of new music. It was here that I managed to locate this track, but it only ever appeared on this compilation. I was a kid, of course I had no money to pay the £0.99 for the track definitely not in the dreaded .m4a format that did not work with my Creative MP3 player. So I kept it in the back of my mind where this track appeared, never forgetting.
Fast forward a few years to 2010, at this time I had a small job which meant MONEY! What did I spend my money on? MUSIC! Mostly CD’s at the time, a few records as I was just getting into that. It got to the point that instead of buying bus fare which could speed up my 2 mile walk to town by a good hour, I would prefer to save that money for buying music. Smart. Anyway, I knew I would not find this record in any HMV in the UK, nor in any charity shop or at any car boot. So I began to look online, I don’t recall it taking long to find it on Amazon UK and I was amazed. Gobsmacked, only £3! (I was easily surprised back then, fearing that such a small fry-record release from the far away lands of the United States would cost a bomb in jolly ol’ Britain)
So I still have this CD in my collection, I don’t think I will ever get rid of it. It is a great compilation in my opinion, but it is not perfect. There are a few dud tracks but there are some great entries on here. Remember I purchased this CD for ONE track only, so who knew what I would think of the other 10.
Here are my favourites:
Momma’s Boy, Elizabeth & The Catapult
At the time of getting this CD I was entering my sour period in my music tastes, preferring more “mature” music that still had the edge of sarcasm, frustration and anger of the pop-punk and emo music I had been gorging myself on years prior. A long way off from discovering the joys of Fiona Apple or the Eels, I discovered this track. As the first track I listened to this before the track I had purchased it for and wow, I loved LOVED it. I loved Liz’s passive-aggressive, almost mean spirited lyrics that just came as nasty stabs at the protagonist in the song. I loved how I found an “angry” song which did not involve screaming, thrashing guitars and fast paced drums – no this song has a beautiful female vocalist and an upbeat melody that contrasts against the lyrical content. Fantastic, this was evolution for me.
Blind, Mega Bass
If it wasn’t for this track, if it wasn’t for Hidden Palms, if it wasn’t for US TV, if it wasn’t for Amber Heard – I would have never even picked this release up, and maybe never had bought another compilation/sampler ever. I love this track, its a shame that the band have never (according to Discogs) put out anything else but this track (band member and vocalist Aiden Hawken had another track on this release, and his own solo career). In my mind this song is late 2000’s Californian coast music, light, airy, streaks of electronica but nothing overpowering – if I had to classify it it would most probably slip somewhere between trip-hop and the vague Indie Electronic genre.
Foreign Country, Christina Courtin’s Running Kicks
Although I didn’t take to this track as much as I did the first track on this release, Foreign Country soon became a favourite of mine. I would say this track is what sent me down a path of finding female lead acts with an unusual vocal style leading me to acts such as Soko (5). Also I fell in love with the line, “If I was a foreign country – would you come visit me?”
Late Night With Christina, Aidan Hawken
Ok maybe I took to this song so quickly because Aiden is the vocalist of the track that brought me to this release in the first place. But I really enjoyed this light, easy going folk indie/americana track and it worked well to fuel my new found passion in those genres. Although this is track is not one of my favourites from Aiden in himself, I have included it in this highlights list as it did bring me to his work.
Tobaco Y Ron, Luz Mob
I am still terrible with my knowledge when it comes to Latin music. But I do really, really enjoy this track. It’s just a fun, summery track that works well in the mixing pot that is this sampler. There are other Latin tracks on this album but this is always the one that stands out.
This compilation to me is summer. I don’t know if there was a theme indented for this compilation or not, but to me it will always symbolise an American summer – something I would not experience until a good 5 years later. This compilation may not to be to everyones taste, and sadly it appears that CrystalTop Music did not do as well as hoped but like I have explained in this short review this compilation has a special meaning to me, making it pretty much invaluable to me.