Various Artists – The Formal Listening Series LP

3 out of 5

Label: Sixgunlover Records

Produced by: Various

Pitched as “a carefully curated containment of colorful characters,” Sixgunlover Record’s ‘Formal Listening Series’ compilation can be taken as how it’s described – a playlist of “colorful” music – and then also as something of a 6GL taste test, given that it features several artists from the label, as well as tangential projects.

In both cases, I’d say the success rate is pretty good, as the LP is well sequenced between acoustic fare and more upbeat rock, but I did qualify that ‘good’: “colorful” is certainly an objective term if we’re talking about the uniqueness of music, so my opinion can only be that; across these 11 tracks, though, while each side of the album definitely produces some notable vocalists and styles, there’s also a few rather “generic”-sounding artists.  It’s very possible that just their particular contributions are less defined, but that’s the tough bit about comps: you normally only have one song to make me interested if I’m not a fan already, and tracks like ((Sounder))’s bare acoustic contribution or Victor Villareal’s undefined closing song don’t offer much.  It’s also odd to select a short, nondescript instrumental, such as Thee Conductor’s Hide It Under A Bushel, for inclusion for the same reasons.  Defined as an introduction to the Sixgunlover label, we’re in the same boat: 6GL almost exclusively made albums from groups / artists who shared this weird, rootsy, indie rock mentality: squirelly, some odd drawls on the vocals.  There was a lot of variance within that niche, but the majority of 6GL stuff has an identifiable sound.  Since we get some labeled groups here – JBe, Quien es, BOOM! – and connected folk, that sound is represented, but then there are the aforementioned tracks which don’t make much impact, and also don’t happen to sound like much on the label.  (Although Villareal is certainly part of the 6GL universe, so we also have examples of just some unfortunate comp selections…)

I’m being overly critical, of course, as this set of music is, on the whole, very listenable, generally like-minded, and, as mentioned, smartly sequenced, making it a slick and enjoyable listen from front to back.  Most comps only offer me one or two standouts, with the rest being somewhat disposable, and ‘The Formal Listening Series’ has a better hit rate than that.  As a big fan of 6GL, though, I admittedly came in with hopes for something even greater.