An Asthmatic Kitty Compilation
Long-winded label compilations like this (24 tracks and 70+ minutes!) are daunting tasks for reviewers in a number of ways: listening can turn into an endurance test to see whether you can beat the record or if the record bests you; at its best, a compilation is basically an advertisement of what to expect from the label’s back catalogue; and giving every artist an equal word count is virtually impossible. The best possible comp is one with a number of different genre flavors and high quality songwriting throughout; one a writer can unequivocally recommend. Mews Too is one of those discs.
Indie folk’s golden boy Sufjan Steven’s label Asthmatic Kitty is home to a good number of weird, cartoonish folk outfits and is friends with a great many more. A listener would have serious ADD to get bored with the tracking and odd trajectory these tracks take. Denison Witmer’s gorgeous trad-folk “Little Flowers” sets a lovely stage that’s quickly subverted by the shambolic marching band sounds of Bogs Visionary Orchestra’s “Everybody’s Broken” and Half-Handed Cloud’s pre-school anti-folk “Bees Are Trying to Build Their Nest in You.” Somber stacks up against absurd against total experimentation, resulting in a surprisingly rewarding trip through not only what Asthmatic Kitty has to offer, but also the now-defunct Three Gut Records — Jim Guthrie lends the rubbery roots-rocker “Evil Thoughts” and Constantines’ Steven Lambke contributes the home-recorded “Sophia.” Stevens’ longtime partner-in-sound Danielson’s “My Lion Sleeps Tonight” is comparatively tame in light of the manic episodes which governed most of his recent full-length. Liz Janes, the other hand, goes colossally mariachi on “Big Texas.” Steven’s go-to background vocalist Elin Smith’s version of the ancient Norwegian folk song “Naa Lukker Seg Mitt Oye” closes the disc with a fragile beauty to echo Witmer’s intro. Chances are if you’ve read any sort of music hype this year you know about Sufjan Stevens, here’s a prime opportunity to listen to his equally talented contemporaries.
Asthmatic Kitty: www.asthmatickitty.com