Last year, Toyota Yaris and Urban Outfitters launched the ‘Free Yr Radio’ campaign, including a tour, to generate awareness and support for independent radio stations. Now comes the digitally released Free Yr Radio 2008 Benefit Compilation, a collection of artists from the tour being sold exclusive at Insound.com for only 99¢ (more may be given to the benefit ‘tip jar’). The interesting compilation includes a very diverse set of artists, from dance electronica to lo-fi punk to soul singer stripped, albeit too diverse at times.
Free Yr Radio starts strong and very live with dance-punk act !!!’s “Must Be the Moon” (from 2007’s Myth Takes – QRO review). A band as active as !!! is always better live (QRO live review), and the recording of “Moon” from Seattle’s well-established indie station KEXP keeps that up. From that great start, gears shift wildly with the original “At My Side” from New York’s Chairlift (QRO photos), some stripped, sunny, sixties Casio indie-pop. And despite staying in the Big Apple, the tonal changes continue with Yeasayer’s “Final Path”, then White Williams’ (QRO photos) “Blue Steel”: the former, from sessions at online broadcaster Daytrotter, is still maybe one of the best representation of the band’s unique sound to-date (QRO album review), a dark hollow haunt with fascinating African rhythms and tech, though the latter original piece is somewhat simplistic keyboard and beat pop.
Those keys at least provide the first good track-to-track flow, going into Dan Deacon’s “Cave Birth”. With high, speedy keys going into and out of harder beats, “Cave” is unmistakably Deacon (QRO live review), but he does that well. From there, Free Yr Radio shifts into grunge-punk, first new in “Padded Chair” from L.A.’s young No Age (QRO live review), then old from Seattle grunge-icons Mudhoney (though it’s a live rendition of the title track from last year’s The Lucky Ones). Both are what you like, or don’t like, about bands like those: No Age’s super lo-fi, Mudhoney going on too long.
After grunge comes stripped blues (naturally?…) in King Khan (QRO live review) & Saba Lou’s “Past and Gone” and The Secret Machines’ “The Walls Are Starting To Crack” (live at KEXP). The fifties-blues with kid-high vocals of “Past” is annoying at first, but improves with more spins, while “Walls” is more sad and up close. The final three tracks on Free Yr Radio are all non-originals, starting with a great live rendition by The Walkmen (QRO live review) of single “In the New Year” (from last year’s You & Me – QRO review), which really gives you more of the fuller Walkmen experience. K-Os remixes Tokyo Police Club’s (QRO spotlight) “Your English Is Good” (pre-release single from 2008’s Elephant Shell – QRO review), and while simple, fun songs like “English” most often are wrecked in remixes, K-Os’ works better the more one hears it. Finishing out Free Yr Radio is Jamie Lidell’s “Rope of Sand” (from last year’s Jim – QRO review) live, which brings out even stronger Lidell’s remarkable soul-singer qualities.
Independent radio has been struggling since… well, forever, but the new millennium has been particularly hard on it, as listeners migrate to the internet and media outlet ownership rules are relaxed, allowing the likes of Clearchannel to own even more of the radio waves. Free Yr Radio 2008 Benefit Compilation is too all over the place, even for a non-genre-specific compilation, but that’s how a good independent radio station should be. For the cost of one iTunes track, you’re bound to find more than one track you want – and it’s all for a good cause.