Arts and Crafts: X is a collection of collaborative efforts from various artists off of the Toronto-based Arts and Crafts label. With a combination of covers and originals, the LP still has a cohesive feel to it. Moody, reflective, and somber tracks fill this record, remaining, for the most part, within the realm of indie rock, pop and folk. Some tracks are much stronger than others, as is to be expected on a release of this type. The slow tempo throughout increases the always present urge, on repeated listens, to just play the songs that really connected to you while eschewing the ones that seemed to lack the same intangible quality. Elsewhere, that temptation might be a mistake, but there are not enough quality tracks on this release to make it worth multiple start-to-finish listens. It’s to be expected from a compilation LP.
Highlights include a collaboration between the always enthralling ensemble Broken Social Scene and Years on “Day of the Kid,” as well as the dream pop extravaganza of “Lady Bird,” a track by Gold & Youth and Trust. There’s a real Beach House feel to the latter cut- it’s mostly the vocals, I think, that draws out this similarity- but I don’t think it is too insightful to point out similarities in bands with similar aesthetics playing during the same epoch. Imitators, sometimes, are even better than the original.
Maybe supergroups don’t always work out for the best (see the Traveling Wilburys). Though the age of becoming a true rock n’ roll star may be long gone, musicians with, ostensibly, more integrity will still be tempted to flaunt their innate superiority as rock stars of the past once did. Nothing of this sort is really going on in Arts and Crafts: X. There’s less ego and more yearning. ‘Indie rock’ stars are not exactly the binge-drinking, ass-grabbing types anyway. Amy Millan and Dan Mangan perform together on a track titled “Chances Are,” another one of the more memorable moments on the release. I must admit that I am a sucker for the good old male-female duet, but they do it real well; it’s the sound of a gut-wrenching farewell between two lovers. It’s as though that terribly attractive couple wearing beanies across from you on the train finally had the courage to move on. Nevertheless, chances are that a few of these other ballads will be remembered, and the rest will drift away into the vague, ethereal space that they came from.