Various Artists – Metaphysics for Beginners

Why would one decide to pick up a release entitled Metaphysics for Beginners? Why did I decide to pick it up? Well I saw the name Sufjan Stevens and said “Hmm, seems about right.” Little did I know that this compilation would consist of intricately odd musical arrangements and songs that included some of the most competent driving beats I’ve heard in a long while.

The first track I listened to was the Sufjan Stevens song titled “How Can the Stone Remain?” It’s the type of song that a newer fan of Stevens would dismiss as completely unrealistic and something out the ordinary for their folk star but as an older fan knows this is just Stevens blending two of his earlier sounds together to form a quiet yet musically complex track. Stevens pulls the concept of such experimental backing music from his early Know Your Rabbit days and the hushed, slowly released vocals from the more singer-songwriter influenced A Sun Came (which incidentally was just re-released with new cover art) to create this mish mash of wonderful electronic beats and breathy yet effortlessly timed vocals. Needless to say I think it’s a bitchin’ song.

After my initial ‘I gotta listen to the Sufjan song!!’ I decided to take it from the top and began to actually listen to the entire album as a whole. I was surprised to find myself actually liking the odd mix and match of these tracks. It begins with a man beat boxing while someone lightly “raps” over said beat. A perfect way to introduce a compilation filled with random songs that sometimes include electro beats and other times include straight edged guitars with quirky vocals. The second track by the Detachment Kit is a perfect example of how this album can make use of the same intricate formula without the electro beats. It begins with a stark guitar riff that leads us to the lead singer’s vocals which despite being nowhere near technically great are perfect for this band and this song. Somewhere near the chorus the music just explodes and I can honestly say at that moment the band hooked me. All of the instruments combined and the vocals, as distorted as they are, shine through the heaviness of the music.

Kind of Like Spitting’s “You Got Served,” sounds like something out of the Conor Oberst songbook. An acoustic guitar and soft, concise vocals make up this short little ditty that is fit snugly between a hazy, dreamlike Summer at Shatter Creek track and a rollicking Make Believe track. This is what this album is all about; showing the world that there is more than what you typically hear out there. Every track on this compilation has some good in it and one is bound to find something worth their time if they really gave it a listen.

(Redder Records)