Album of the Day: Rough Trade Publishing, “Song a Day”

Over the course of the last six months, there has been a steady uptick in both the number of albums appearing on Bandcamp that are designed as fundraisers and the number of artists redirecting their funds to worthy causes. Rough Trade Publishing’s Song A Day is somewhat different: rather than releasing all of the music in one shot, fans who subscribe to the sampler (for just $20.17 a year), will get a new song every day for the first 90 days of the year, with all proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The pair of songs available now on the sampler should be enough to convince—Kevin Devine turns in a tender, acoustic demo of his trembling “I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Help Me, Thanks,” and Delicate Steve’s pinwheeling “O for A” puts his emotive guitar playing front-and center, backed by a rhythm track that sounds like clicking clock gears. But the music released since January 1 is just as strong: Eleventh Dream Day’s “All in All” is a study in slowly-ratcheting tension, its opening couplet of, “Most of all, I prefer not to know the ending/ most of all, I know long walks will ease the pain” feeling particularly wrenching. Juliana Hatfield’s “Kellyanne” is a big, bright strummer with her plaintive voice weaving gingerly between acoustic guitar. Beauty Pill’s pared-down demo version of “Prison Song” is the perfect showcase for their brilliant, counterintuitive song structures, and a live version of Mono’s “Death in Rebirth” builds to a crushing, heaving conclusion. King Khan’s “The Mourning Song” puts political protest amidst a cavalcade of bleary JB’s horns, and Rachel Grimes’ creeping, piano-only take on “The Star Spangled Banner” feels shot through with regret and sorrow. That the compilation arrives one song at a time turns out to be its greatest strength: each day there’s something new to look forward to—a new song to help alleviate, in some small way, whatever may be ailing you.

J. Edward Keyes

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