Outdoing the recent and excellent compilation from Asthmatic Kitty by many miles, Acuarela Records’ Acuarela Songs 3 might possibly be one of the most definitive statements for early-‘00s indie rock thus far. With twenty artists spanning two discs and 100 minutes of music, this project threads the myriad genres that make up “indie rock” – folk, orchestral pop, post-rock, ambient electronica, slow-core – through a thematic filter and creates one hell of a collection. As with the previous installments in the series, Acuarela asks the contributing artists to evoke the label’s name – “watercolor” in Spanish – in the lyrics, feel or instrumentation.
Most of the material one here is homespun or rustically melodic. From Julie Doiron’s scratchy “Better Now” to June Panic’s lilting back porch ramble “Everyone is Saying Hello Again” to Lorna’s pastoral epic “ …And the Only Shape He Saw Was of the Sun” there’s a delicate beauty constantly in danger of being consumed by some stronger sonic force. Many of the instrumentals feel stronger, or at least more fleshed out. The thunderous “T.C. Steele” from Early Day Miners closes the first disc with equal measures of foggy atmosphere and sharp corners. Miztura’s “Gizon Arrunt Bat” is haunting with its ghost of a melody and noir jazz rhythm section.
Few of the acts on this release actually call Acuarela home. That the label has been able to gather such a collection of previously unreleased songs together speaks volumes about its importance in the contemporary independent music scene. This is as essential as compilations get.