STSML compilation album: a mixed bag for a good cause

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“Songs That Saved My Life” is a compilation album put together by an organization of the same name that supports mental health and suicide prevention charities. The first compilation album they produced is an exciting mix of contemporary alternative, punk and post-hardcore artists that hits the mark in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish socially, if not always musically.

The album is a collection of 12 cover songs, each by a different artist. The long-awaited collection was teased over the course of months through music videos and extremely personal testimonials from the artists. These videos featured the musicians talking about what they were going through at the time the songs originally came out and why talking about mental health is important.

Pop-punk masters Neck Deep cover singer-songwriter Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” turning the mellow acoustic pop song into an anthemic banger.

Movements, a band firmly dedicated to mental health in their song lyrics, transforms R.E.M.’s folksy guitar-driven “Losing My Religion” into a song that is firmly theirs, and the loss of faith in the lyrics is more readily apparent than in the original version.

Dance Gavin Dance’s cover of Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” is … very Dance Gavin Dance. They speed the song up a bit and switch between Tillian Pearson’s saccharine-sweet vocals to John Mess’ punctuated, almost rap-like screams.

The last three songs on the album are where things really go south for me. Up until now, we’ve had up-tempo songs with a ton of energy, and now Too Close To Touch, Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years and The Maine have decided to try and make the album into a Josh Groban Christmas album with their plodding, overwrought covers of the insufferably repetitive “Let It Be,” the bizarrely unrelatable “Broom People” and the seemingly endless “Transatlanticism,” respectively.

Your parents might like these last three songs as part of your holiday chill mix, but on this album, they come out of nowhere, and I suspect most people will skip them after the first listen.

Dream State’s cover of Linkin Park’s “Crawling” is somewhere in there as well. Significantly more interesting than the three previously described songs, their cover is
a slow-down of the original. Gone are the screamed and rapped vocals, replaced by heartfelt singing but hamstrung by Linkin Park’s original terrible lyrics.

Stand Atlantis covers Modern Baseball’s emo classic, “Your Graduation,” and turns
it from an overrated, wailing love song to a power-pop anthem sounding very much, but not too much, like Paramore, skillfully linking together several flavors of pop-inspired emotional rock. This is one of the few covers that sound better than the overrated original. Gone are the half-hearted vocals, replaced with polished, soaring singing.

And finally, As It Is covers The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights,” the brightest gem on the album. If nothing else, buy it for this song alone. I didn’t take the original song seriously when it was big, thinking it was fluff made for commercials and coffee shops.

Looking back now, I recognize the original for what it is: a timeless electronica love song. As It Is turns it into one of the best post-hardcore songs of the year. I didn’t think it was possible to be truly innovative while covering someone else’s song, but the geniuses of As It Is did it.

So, those are the “Songs That Saved My Life.” They each mean a lot to a lot of people, but each one isn’t going to be for everyone. Even if you don’t end up liking every song on this compilation, do what I did: Pay for them all, help out a great cause and skip the ones you don’t care for.