November 27, 2003

Various Artists "Parasol's Sweet Sixteen, Volume Seven"

Ahhh, another Parasol's Sweet Sixteen compilation! About a year ago, when they released Volume Six--easily one of the best pop comps I've heard in ages--I was utterly overwhelmed at the quality and quantity of music that they released just in that year. This year is no exception, and I'll admit that I was very eager to hear their 'greatest hits' of the past year, and they've not disappointed, even though at first glance, it might seem as if there wasn't much new being offered with this volume. While only two songs on Volume Seven are unreleased and three of the songs are forthcoming, it's really not a problem, as the sheer quality level of music makes the lack of rarities a lot less heartbreaking.

Of course, it's no secret that those Parasol kids have a fixation with Swedish pop. Nine of these songs are from Swedish groups, yet these acts are so diverse in nature, there's never a redundancy when it comes to sound. From the singer/songwriter fare of Sukilove and Mans Wieslander, the twee pop of Nanook of the North and Ronderlin, dance club pop of Club 8, and the rock of The Wannadies, Moonbabies, Thirdimension and Bettie Serveert, if Parasol's guilty of a crime, it's certainly not a sonic monotony. Parasol may hype a lot of wonderful Swedish pop, but none of the bands sound remotely alike. Swedish pop? It's Swedish, but thankfully, it's not all pop.

Interestingly enough, many of the American selections are harldy what you'd call pop, either. True, Mark Bacino and Mentho, George Usher Group are power-pop of the highest order and Kevin Tihista's Red Terror is pretty much a definitive Parasol artist, bands like Absinthe Blind, Tractor Kings, and The Vertebrats aren't. This year's class seems to be gritter, tougher, and less fey than what you'd expect from a pop label; bands like The Like Young, Fonda and Menthol all have an edge that's much sharper and tougher than Parasol's usual fare. Then again, perhaps that's Parasol's secret. Underneath all of the pop and occasional fluff are some seriously unique, interesting and experimental bands, and Volume Seven like the previous volume, is the sound of a really cool radio station coming from an alternate universe. I simply wish radio were 1/23rds as interesting and as diverse as Parasol's Sweet Sixteen Volume Seven.

A fine little sampler from a most impressive label group. For cheap, you could have seventy-seven minutes of pure pop delight. What are ya waitin' for?

--Joseph Kyle

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