Artcore, Volume 2 by Various Artists (Review)

Buy this album, if only to see what’s currently happening in cutting-edge Christian music.
Artcore Volume 2 - Various Artists

Of all of the compilations released in the past couple of years, Tooth and Nail’s Artcore series is among the best. By including songs from bands that are in Tooth and Nail’s camp as well as unsigned bands, the listener doesn’t have to worry about jumping into unknown waters. Another distinctive trait of the Artcore series is the fact they always feature a wide range of material, from noise-pop to folk and Volume 2 is no exception.

The best track on here is Starflyer 59’s “Next Time Around.” Swelling chords with swirling feedback and Jason Martin’s low-key delivery make this one of Starflyer’s best songs ever. Sal Paradise and Roseblossom Punch both contribute punchy melodic pop songs in the vein of Plankeye. Joy Electric displays yet another soon to be synthpop classic with “Transylvania,” an unreleased track in the vein of We Are the Music Makers. The Supertones had their debut on this album with “Found,” a fast-paced upbeat ska song; it shows why these guys are one of the funnest bands currently playing in Christian music. Driver Eight shows off their melodic noise-pop à la Catherine Wheel and one also gets to hear a indie-pop gem from Velour 100’s self-released debut.

Starflyer fans will appreciate Pony Express; imagine ’50s music combined with the strains of Ride and Swervedriver and you come close to Pony Express’ sound. Sierra Heart sings a lonesome ballad in the vein of Patsy Cline or Tarnation; it’s nice to see a label like Tooth and Nail take interest in this kind of music, as well as in the quirky, satirical Steve Taylor-meets-Daniel Amos music of Sage and that trippy Danielson.

Unfortunately, as with all compilations, there are a few misses. Red Timber and Slick 50 both play that lumbering noise stuff. Personally, it fails to excite me. The Way Sect Bloom also features a lot of talent (check out their track the first Artcore volume). However, on this album, they seem to be caught in the mighty shadow of Circle of Dust. The song starts off with a nice acoustic guitar intro, but soon leaves for a different direction.

With a compilation like Artcore, one is tempted to discuss the merits of each and every track, but suffice to say, buy this album, if only to see what’s currently happening in cutting-edge Christian music.