After building his London-based club How Does It Feel To Be Loved? (a Velvet Underground lyric) into a haven for library-dwelling indie fans and soul aficionados alike, music journo Ian Watson has created a similarly-named record label that reflects his love of melodic guitar-pop (The Smiths, Orange Juice, Belle & Sebastian etc), and to showcase the current crop of talented indie bands filling mid-size venues throughout the UK. This debut compilation covers both bases superbly.
The album is much like a night at the club (complete with photos of regular attendees throughout the booklet)-- a satisfying mixture of varying styles and hidden treasures; Voxtrot's opening track has distinct echoes of The Housemartins, The Stars of Aviation's contribution is charmingly laid-back, while The Gresham Flyers' combine Beach Boys harmonies with a new-wave chorus. The common theme is the emphasis on melody and hooklines, and acts as a welcome relief to the bombast of commercial indie music.
Not all of it works (Fosca's track is perhaps a Pulp pastiche too far) but when the highlight contributions from Wintergreen and Strange Idols take wing, it's truly essential. This is the top contender for compilation of 2006, and a good indicator of future stars.--Thomas Allott