by Al Kaufman
Indie rock is alive and well, thanks to good folks like Chad Pearson. Pearson used to run The Militia Group label. Then he walked out on music altogether and worked in both baking and construction. But you never forget your first love, and in 2007 Pearson started up the P Is for Panda label in Atlanta. He supports the music on the label by selling indie t-shirts, and donates a third of his profits to local charities.
Even if it goes multi-platinum (which, in a perfect world, it would) Mix Tape Vol. 1 will not end up earning a lot of money for charities. That’s because Pearson has decided to release it for the ridiculously low price of $1.98. Mix Tape is 16 songs by eight up-and-coming bands. It’s a solid hour of great music that deserves to be heard. It’s all engaging stuff full of angst and passion, yet smart enough to remember that good music begins with good music. In short, there are catchy melodies, pretty harmonies, and the occassional gentle piano solo, such as on Mike Dunn and the Kings of New England’s "Get Up."
The most captivating band on here is Gasoline Heart, who sound like Dinosaur Jr. with a slightly better sense of melody and slightly less guitar fuzz. Both their cuts, "Shake It Off," and "Burn Bright (But Burn Far Away)," jump out of the speakers like a rabid pit bull on steroids. And they hold onto the jugular just as tighly.
While Damion Suomi’s "Darwin, Jesus, the Devil, and Me" could not possibly live up to its sensational title, it, and "One More Time," are the types of songs we’ve been waiting for REM to put out for years; angry and driven, with just a touch of twang. Pasadena offer up some nice Americana that sounds as big as the open road, while Andy Shauf delivers slightly sensitive but highly addictive acoustic pop.
All in all, there’s not a bad track on here. Of the eight bands, at least half of them will make it big, and for less than two bucks you’ll get the chance to boast that you knew them when.