Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine's Day-related album review: 'Sweetheart'

If you're seeking some fresh music for your Valentine's Day plans this weekend, look no further than Sweetheart 2014. It's the fifth in a series and continues Starbucks'  tradition of curating unique compilations.

Now available digitally and on CD via Hear Music/Concord Music Group, this release contains 13 new cover tunes by established and rising alternative, indie, soul and folk musicians. 

Among the standouts: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' supremely soulful Motown-styled take on Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I’m Yours”; My Morning Jacket's Jim James, whose laid back romantic groove (key lyric: "I want to give you some good lovin") on Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” recalls mid-'70s Eric Clapton crossed with MMJ; Brandi Carlile’s spirited version of Fleetwood Mac classic “The Chain” expertly uses her touring partners The Hanseroth Brothers for the male counterpoint vocals and actual chains for percussion; Phosphorescent (AKA Matthew Houk) brings a lush, atmospheric sound and intimate, longing vocals to Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.”

Other noteworthy tracks include Vampire Weekend’s Italian-sung “Time to Say Goodbye [Con te partirĂ²],” which Andrea Bocelli originated and musically wouldn't be out of place on their latest album Modern Vampires of the City. Ben Harper does a stark, yearning solo piano interpretation of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.” Beck gives John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band's “Love” a dense, acoustic guitar-led reading. 

Fiona Apple & Maude Maggart, The Head and the Heart, Blake Mills, Bahamas,Valerie June and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down round things out. 

The liner notes feature background info on the original versions and quotes from the Sweetheart contributors on why they chose particular love songs. Lattice-style packaging on the physical CD front resembles an actual valentine (a nice touch), with warm hues. 

Grade: B+

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