First off, you have to give hats off to the Saddle Creek for putting this benefit album together in such a short time.
Saddle Creek is pumping out some of the best music of our generation...my generation. So I expected nothing less than greatness out of this album. And from the first track, Cursive's "Ten Percent to the Ten Percent," I knew that I was in for a treat. Tim Kasher's voice is strong as ever and the edginess of the song lasts just long enough--before it gets too tiring or repititious. "This country's gonna go out with a bang, this country's headed for dependence day," Kasher screams in his all too perfect style.
Next up is half of Azure Ray, Maria Taylor, who released her debut solo album, "11:11" in May, with a new recording of the track "Breathe." As on "11:11," she calms and soothes the soul with her smooth and tender voice. Paired with Andy LeMaster and less produced vocals/music, the track is fantastic.
Then it's the "new-comers" to Saddle Creek- Criteria, who I don't know much about--this was actually the first song I'd heard from them, and though it's not my favorite on this album, it's good. Very digitalized and with a great beat, "Bookeeta" was a great induction to the works of Criteria.
It's followed by the Elected's "San Franscisco via Chicago Blues," which is one of the best songs I've heard from this band. It's slow and folky and beautiful.
And then, a remix of Broken Spindles' "Move Away." I've never been a huge fan of this band, but after hearing this remix, I'm definitely going to give them another try.
Cocoon, an interesting new development between Jake Bellows (of Neva Dinova) and Todd Fink (of the Faint), put their talented heads together and what comes out is the 6th track, "She's a Ghost." Sounds nothing like their respective other bands. It's a slow, dreamy calypso-y song that proves the two can do way more than they've let on.
7th on the album is Bright Eyes, with a track called, "Napoleon's Hat." And while I'm quite partial to this band, I must say that this track is fantastic. Smack in the middle of the compilation is the perfect place for it. Starting out with a Donovan-esque intro, Conor Oberst hasn't lost his ability to make beauty out of sadness, in case you were worried. It's a very refined track; very piano-based, but Oberst's raw and trembling voice paired with the harmonies of Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis make this track phenomenal.
Lest you get antsy from the slower tracks, it's the Faint, with a more subdued but still Faint-y track, "Hypnotised" where they prove, once again, that you can have a dancy beat and still be serious.
And next up is the lovely Orenda Fink, the other half of Azure Ray, with an acoustic version of "no evolution" from her solo debut, "Invisible Ones," released in August. It's a beautiful version of a haunted song.
Then comes Mayday, an often overlooked gem on the Saddle Creek roster, with "Footprint." I don't understand why Mayday hasn't pricked the ears of the public as Cursive, Bright Eyes and the Faint have, but "Footprint" is definitely a great, solid track, with country-influenced undertones and haunted overtones/vocals.
Sorry About Dresden contributes the most uplifting (musically) song on this album, "Sunrise: Norfolk Virginia." And while SAD is not one of my favorite bands, this track is good--with it's rocky riffs and punky roots.
Track 12 introduces Two Gallants, also new to the Saddle Creek gang. Their track, "All Your Faithless Loyalties," has the soul of Bob Dylan's earlier work and the scratchy vocals to go along with it. It's a little bluesy and folky and though for some reason the vocals remind me a little of an Axl Rose ballad (I can't explain this...) I am highly anticipating their Saddle Creek release in January '06.
Finishing off the album is Tim Kasher's side project, The Good Life, proving that Kasher is industrious enough to start and end a compilation with his contributions. "New Year's Retribution" sounds like Kasher has a cold. But that's okay, because he still sounds great. It's crazy how his vocals are entirely different in The Good Life than in Cursive. This track is fun. In the style of the band, it's got a great beat and it's simple and raw (emotionally). A fantastic finale, "Turn out all the lights and pretend we're someone else tonight," which is followed by some background coughing noises which furthers my hunch that there was a cold going on....
So to wrap this up, "Lagniappe" (which is pronounced "lan-yap" and is a Creole word for a bonus a friendly shopkeeper adds to a purchase or an unexpected gift/bonus, in case you were wondering) is a great cross-section of the Saddle Creek catalogue. All of the proceeds go to the Red Cross for hurricane relief and if you're even the slightest bit hesitant about buying this benefit album, just remind yourself it's for a good cause and you're not only getting a collection of great music but you're also helping the victims of the Hurricane Katrina. Buy it.