VA: The Sound the Hare Heard
Kill Rock Stars

Inspired by the double meaning of the Buddhist parable about the pensive hare, wise lion, and a fallen acorn declaring the end of the world, Kill Rock Stars owner Slim Moon gathers songs by an all-star roster of established artists and upstarts into a wonderful twenty-one song collection. Though it might help if your listening taste runs to Elliott Smith and Joanna Newsome, only the deaf would have difficulty surrendering to the ample charms of trippy tunes by Laura Veirs and Sufjan Stevens. But they're the tip of the proverbial iceberg, really, as the disc's filled with one great tune after another. They're often naked settings—nothing more than acoustic guitar and voice—that expose the marvelous caliber of the songwriting. Devin Davis's timeless lament “When The Angels Lift Our Eyelids in the Morning” proves that nothing more than a guitar, voice, and harmonica are required when a song is sufficiently haunting. Jeff Hanson's similarly sparse “Daylight” is distinguished by the graceful glide of his quivering voice and its beautiful melodies. The good-time lilt of Simone White's “The American War” belies the seriousness of its message (“Do you remember the American war? / We forgot what we were fighting for”).

There are many memorable cuts, but the Dylanesque gusto with which Everyothers' Owen McCarthy attacks “Stargazers Are Blind” makes it an album highlight. Elsewhere, Essie Jain's mournful dirge “Why” conjures affecting drama while a tinkling glockenspiel and sweet harmonies deepen the entrancing quality of Veirs' gently soaring “Cast a Hook in Me.” But The Sound the Hare Heard isn't all laid-back balladry either: Death Vessel works some sly Motown-styled uplift into “Dancers All,” The Moore Brothers bring wide-eyed rapture to “Waves of Wonder,” and Lauren Hoffman's torchy “Another Song About the Darkness” burns with impassioned fervour. A remarkable collection, whatever your taste.

May 2006