Emo as a genre is...well...let's not get into that debate, shall we? It's not really worth getting my blood pressure up, and besides, it's really a fruitless and pointless argument. (Not as pointless as what is and isn't 'punk,' mind you--that's always such an interesting debate. Please.) Regardless of the now-tired genre, I will still admit I have a thing for music that contains sincere emotional content; a good melody is always a good thing in my book and I've never denied a song's excellence, even if it is "emo."
Thus, I felt a little uneasy at the prospect of Five One Inc's latest offering, a compilation entitled My Favorite Song Writers. The premise of this is simple: get friends from indie-rock, punk and emo bands away from their normal outlets and have them write a song all on their own. A fair enough concept, and even though it was interesting, I was a little concerned; as the friends come from bands such as Pollen, No Knife, Hey Mercedes, Sparta, The Good Life and Pretty Girls Make Graves, I thought the 'emo' thing might run heavy throughout the album.
Surprisingly, stripped away from their bands, several artists do a quite good job of impressing this hard-to-impress critic. Tim Kasher's "Stranger Than Strangers" is a fascinating little computer-made number; it's sad in that breakup kind of way, but it's made up for by both excellent lyrics and interesting music. I liked "I'd Rather Be Wine Drunk" by Bob Nanna (Hey Mercedes, Braid) a little more than I thought I would. Two songs are instrumental noise collages, and two songs are sung in Japanese. The song that makes this compilation worthy, though, is Cave In's Stephen Brodsky's solo "Beautiful Break-Up." This guy, I swear, he's got the best understanding of the concept of 'atmosphere.' Cave In's an awesome band, but here, Brodsky's quiet singing and simple guitar accompaniment quietly roar louder than anything his band's done.
Though these songs are moody, sad and sometimes a little melodramatic, that doesn't take away from the fact that My Favorite Song Writers is an enjoyable little compilation, highlighting some of today's surprisingly better (and often unknown) songwriters.
Label Website: http://www.fiveoneinc.com