Trying to write this review is weirding me out. YpsiSongs is a compilation of tracks about and/or by bands that are associated with Ypsilanti, MI. Ypsi is where I currently call home and, as a member of the local music community myself, it’s a surreal feeling to critique a song by one of my band mates’ other projects along with another by my roommate. Topping it all off is the notion that if i drop any disparaging comment on one of these acts they probably know where I live, or at least could find out pretty easily. So let’s focus on the positive…
The disc begins with The Pop Project’s Dave Lawson and the greatly-missed Joiya backing him up on “Yp.” It’s a careening pop song with enough layers and dynamic shifts that it practically runs circles around itself. Lawson’s lyrics are ripped practically verbatim from a local tour guide and whether conscious or not, it provides a perfect skewer of Sufjan Stevens’ attempts to give a history lesson via folk music. Annie Palmer’s “Ypsilanti Won’t You Let Me?” follows this up with more stripped-down fare. Feeling both nervy and languid –thanks to plunky banjo and cello swells respectively– Palmer’s colorful vignette is a much more personal portrait than the Lawson’s. Vailcode’s “From an Upstairs Window” is the first, and arguably the best, in a litany of alt. country numbers which include Modernlull’s “John Norman Collins” and The Eugene Strobe’s “Yep Slyly Land Tea on My Tray.” Both Emily Jane Powers’ “Thief” and Saturday Looks Good to Me’s Fred Thomas’ “Susceptible to Ghosts” capture the exuberant spirit of lo-fi acoustic guitar pop perfectly. As its name would seem to indicate “Ian Saylor’s Dream” by Ian Loy Saylor of The Rants evokes Bob Dylan in its lyrical weirdness, but the smooth and humble guitar work has more in common with Mark Kozelek’s slow-core than Dylan’s spry ramble. Drunken Barn Dance’s “Circle the Wagons” delves deep in minor-chord melancholy and a long list of places and people missed while on tour.
The one unifying aspect binding all these songs and artists together –even the WTF? inclusion of gutter punks Coke Dick Motorcycle Awesome– is their distinct lack of pretension. Like Ypsi itself, this collection is humble and self-effacing, it has its strengths and weaknesses and lays them out equally in the lyrics. There’s no sugar-coating the fact that the city is in need of some work, but still, it’s about time we local musicians paid our respects and YpsiSongs is a fine start.
Cerberus Records: www.cerberusrecords.com