The first of these is the second volume of the Friends In Bellwoods benefit compilation. The original comp came out in early 2007 and featured a litany of fantastic indie artists that (to quote the liner notes):
"captures the spirit and camaraderie that has come from Bellwoods, a small house on the fringes of Queen St. West in the heart of downtown Toronto."
The house may be on the fringe of Queen St. West but it's at the heart of Toronto's indie music scene with two members of Ohbijou residing there and many more dropping through the doors to spend time. The album was the first release by Out Of This Spark which has gone on to release records by the D'Urbervilles, Timber Timbre and many more of my favourite albums of the past two years. AND they'll be releasing the next album from Ear To The Sound friend (and past post subject) Evening Hymns.
Many of the artists that contributed to the first record return for Volume 2 - even those who have blown-up in the intervening couple years. The Acorn and Rural Alberta Advantage for example have both had rapturous responses to their recent albums but still lend their talents and time to "Slippery When Wet" and "Rough and Tumble" respectively (the former has nothing to do with Bon Jovi, btw). There are also newcomers to the project including the lovely Basia Bulat who shines on "My Heart Is A Warning," and Snailhouse, who follows-up a fantastic album with "Don't Go Anywhere."
The compilation is so chock-a-block with great material that it is a freakin' double-disc. It's a freakin' bargain and as with the first FiB, all proceeds from sales go to benefit the Daily Bread Food Bank and can be purchased via Zunior, mail-order or on iTunes.
The second album I want to mention is from a group that has appeared on both volumes of FiB, but they were credited as Friday Morning's Regret on the first. Interestingly, the song they contributed to Volume 1 became their new band name. I'm talking about The Wooden Sky. They close out disc two of FiB v.2 with "My Old Ghosts" but soon after the release of the compilation they came out with the full-length record from which that track is taken.
If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone is the band's follow-up to The Wooden Sky and their first for Black Box Recordings. It's a magnificent record that flips a middle-finger to the notion of a sophomore slump by besting a solid first record with even better material. Things begin with the impassioned "Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot To Me)" and never let up.
"(Bit Part)" may just be the best song Blue Rodeo has never written and the quality of this baker's dozen collection of songs is uniformly strong and memorable.
The album was recorded by Howard Bilerman (though it's credited to "Billerman" on the liner notes), who has done fantastic work with Basia Bulat, Vic Chesnutt and others and turns in yet another note-perfect, un-flashy job here.
Check out the video for "Oh My God"
And don't forget to visit The Wooden Sky's Myspace page.
Thanks for reading, now start listening...