Cities 97 Sampler, still alright

Cities 97 Sampler, still alright

This year’s album, the 22nd anniversary, follows the same trend as the previous 21 featureing several decnt live tracks.

Keegan Swenson, staff writer

Every year hundreds people wait outside the Target store nearest their homes in the cold and harsh winter to receive a copy of the Cities 97 Sampler, an album in which all the proceeds go to local Minnesota charities. This year’s album, the 22nd anniversary, follows the same trend as the previous 21: around 20 tracks of semi-well known artists that performed in the Cities 97 studios.

The main problem with these albums, and the Cities 97 radio station itself, is how it can be drenched in sentimentality; songs like “Forgiveness” and “Halfway Gone” try to hard to pull at your heart strings. However, the simple reason that people should get their hands on these is that each album has several tracks of honest songwriting that capture these artists in performances that are breathtaking and perhaps the best of their career.

This year the album kicks off with one of the best tracks here, One EskimO’s “Kandi,” a deliciously upbeat and contagious song. Both Lifehouse and Five for Fighting give good yet generic performances that are at least worth a listen if just for the live setting.

Sara Bareilles’s “King of Anything” and John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare” both showcase examples of live tracks that far surpass their studio counterparts. Newcomers Rogue Valley and Cedar Avenue both show that they are talented young and upcoming bands; however, after only one listen to their contributions to the album, their songs stink of shallowness and repetitiveness.

The album’s heart wrenching and flat out best moment comes with Brandi Carlile’s song “That Year”; showcasing the wholly original way she can tell a story using her tortured and vulnerable vocals. Taylor Swift: take some notes. Carlile’s song is a personal tale of a friend’s suicide in high school; however, even though she is telling such a personal story, any listener with a pair of ears can relate to this breathtaking song.

The weakest song of the bunch comes from Sarah McLachlan, Canada’s most overrated singer songwriter. The song “Forgiveness” is dreadful; with clichéd lyrics and an overly sentimental vocal performance; don’t feel bad about clicking the skip button for this one.

Elsewhere, David Gray’s “Fugitive” has Gray sounding like a young Eddie Vedder and presents a nice and humble moment for the singer. Both the Avett Brothers and Guster turn in performances of their terrific, but overplayed songs, that honestly add nothing to the studio versions already released, save the audience sing-a-long.

The Sampler’s last track, a hidden one, has Ingrid Michaelson singing about her love for Mexican food. “I don’t know what I am gonna eat tonight… McDonald’s or Burger King; been there.. No I think I am going Mexican.” Indeed.