Listening Booth: “The Green Owl Comp: A Benefit for the Energy Action Coalition”

Written by Listening Booth, Music

If putting money in the hands of artists isn’t charitable enough to compel people to buy music, Green Owl Records is hoping that helping the planet will be. Founded in New York City, the independent label aims to provide music with environmentally positive tie-ins. Their first release, The Green Owl Comp: A Benefit for the Energy Action Coalition, brings together a diverse array of indie artists to raise money to donate to the Energy Action Coalition, a movement to strengthen the clean energy efforts in North America. All of the profits from the album will be given to the EAC.

As is the case with a lot of compilations, the music on The Green Owl Comp is fairly middle of the road: not too somber, not too perky, not too experimental, not too pop. They were able to draw some big names to the project (Feist, Muse, Of Montreal, Pete Yorn, Deerhoof), but there are surely some names here that will be new to many.

Of the big acts, the live version of Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia” is the most instantaneously memorable, if only for how epic it sounds, especially compared to everything else on the compilation. The band brings their usual wall of strength and speed, and the hyped up, cheering crowd makes the song pack an even stronger punch. The most surprising effort among the well-known artists is Of Montreal’s “Feminine Effects,” a delicate piano ballad from the band fronted by a man who stirred up press by letting Outback Steakhouse turn one of their songs into a jingle, whipping out his privates at a show and who regularly wears women’s clothing and make-up. Okay, so those kinds of things never stopped Elton John from writing piano ballads, but they weren’t quite such far cries from his normal fare. Kevin Barnes’ high voice compliments the warm, twinkling piano keys so harmoniously that it makes one wish he’d release an entire album of this stuff. From the newcomers, California’s Harper Simon leaves the strongest impression with a surprisingly sensual raspy strained whisper over a stuttering psychedelic guitar in “Henrieta.” His is surely a contribution that warrants further exploration, so thankfully he’s currently working on his first full-length.

The only missteps on The Green Owl Comp are those of consistency more than quality. The remix of Bloc Party’s “The Prayer” by grimesters Hadouken will likely only appeal to existing grime fans. It feels a little too out of place among a list of largely neo-psych, folk and garage rock songs, as does “Intimate Revolution” from dub artist Satori. On their own they’re not bad tracks, but they break up the flow in the context of this compilation.

In addition to 16 mostly formidable tracks, The Green Owl Comp comes with a DVD of exclusive videos, as well as bonus audio tracks from up-and-comers like Carina Round, Dragons of Zynth and Earl Greyhound. It can be found not only at the standard online outlets (iTunes, Amazon, Insound), but also at Whole Foods stores.