Compilation albums are difficult to review as the analysis is often a critique of the compiler as much as it is of the artists involved. The folks at Connecticut?s Backlight have assembled a collection of romantic, late-night tearjerkers, and have elected to present it as a sort of musical novella, delicately held together by the softest strands of love, loss, pain and regret. Jeff Dueck opens the ?tale? with a rainy day reflection on a lost love (one of two selections from the play ?Deconstructing Generation X?), followed by Duncan Sheik?s ?A Purple Trail? (from the musical ?The Nightingale?), that sounds like one of Juliet?s missing letters from Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet.
Compilation producer Peter Field jumps across the mixing desk to give us ?City Lights,? a glitchy, electronic dance backbone that will appeal to fans of the Bergen (Norway) dance scene based around artists like R?yksopp, Erland ?ye, Sondre Lerche, et. al. Vesper Stamper?s wall of breathy vocals create an ambience on ?Saigon Grill with Kid? that?ll put smiles on the faces of Ida fans. Husband, Ben?s snappy banjo carries the song home to the depths of my heart and had me immediately scurrying for other releases, which, after all, is one of the major reasons an artist wants to get their songs accepted for these types of releases. (Vesper?s website, by the way, is available in the 8-page booklet, which also houses credits and lyrics.)
Matt Singer sounds like the sensitive, tender, boy-next-door type that you?d like your daughter to date in college and his ?Lover? has a laid back, relaxed, John Wesley Harding air about it that?s also worthy of further investigation. John Bonaventura?s keyboards bring a festive air to ?Lullabye,? while Ian McGlynn?s ?Catharsis? is a piano-driven weeper that offers a pleasant diversion from the predominently guitar-based tracks here. It?s amazing how dramatic and contemplative a simple two-note piano riff can be when played with just the right syncopation and emotion. McGlynn?s emotive bellowing doesn?t hurt matters either. A genuine ?catharsis? indeed ? sequenced at the end of our trip down Melancholy Lane. Finally, Dueck returns with another ?Deconstructinig Generation X excerpt, ?Michael Remembers,? a gorgeous piano solo that floats across the grey matter like a butterfly?s breath and may be the most beautiful, heartbreaking piece of music I?ve heard all year. I almost want to track down who Michael is remembering and thank her for providing him (and Jeff) with the inspiration for this memorable piece of work that will never be far from my CD player throughout the rest of the year.
There?s no superstars?no household names, just a collection of very talented performers sharing their broken hearts, fractured relationships and lonely evenings in front of a photo album full of pictures of happy times with loved ones who have gone away forever. For anyone who?s ever loved, lost, and spent an evening alone crying away the pain, this is schoolgirl crush music for college coeds to pore over when they?re left alone in the dorm after their roommates have left for a weekend with their boyfriends. 8/10 -- Jeff Penczak (11 December, 2006)