CD Review of Big Change: Songs for FINCA by Various Artists
Various Artists:
Big Change: Songs for FINCA

Reviewed by Jeff Giles


ver since the scene in “Garden State” that saw her character telling Zach Braff’s that the Shins would change his life, untold thousands of indie rock-lovin’ twentysomethings have been eager to bestow magical musical tastemaking abilities upon Natalie Portman, so it’s only natural that, when it came time to drum up support for her favorite charity, she decided to executive-produce a mixtape.

To that end, here’s Big Change: Songs for FINCA, an iTunes-only benefit compilation that’s sending 100% of its proceeds to, well, FINCA. Never heard of the organization? Here’s an introduction, cribbed from the organization’s website:

“FINCA International provides financial services to the world's lowest-income entrepreneurs so they can create jobs, build assets and improve their standard of living. We target the poorest of the working poor: those who have the least access to services such as loans, savings programs, and insurance. Our clients include women, who make up 70 percent of the world's poor; individuals unable to find work in the formal sector; families displaced by war and internal conflict; the rural poor; and those affected by chronic poverty. With more than 20 years' experience and over 500,000 clients on four continents, FINCA offers a proven solution to poverty.”

A pretty tough mission to argue against, in other words – but even if you’re in favor of poverty, you’ll probably find it hard to disagree with a track listing that runs the hip ‘n’ sensitive pop spectrum, from Norah Jones to…well, yes, the Shins. It’s a veritable grab bag of Pitchfork-friendly artists – you’ve got your Antony & the Johnsons, your Devendra Banhart, your M. Ward, your Rogue Wave, and Portman’s new favorite band, Beirut.

Of course, the phrase “Pitchfork-friendly artists” might not sound like the most persuasive stamp of approval, particularly if your tastes run toward the more traditional (i.e. songs with production values and/or easily discernible melodies). Don’t let the artists’ names scare you off, though; this is a relatively straightforward set of mellow pop tunes, and even when it strays into the art-rock ether (as with Antony & the Johnsons’ intolerable “Paddy’s Gone”), the set’s $7.99 price tag is low enough to soothe the sting.

The best part – for indie lovers, anyway – is the exclusive content. Nestled among Big Change’s 16 tracks are five previously unreleased recordings, including a new remix of the Shins’ “Australia” (courtesy of Bjorn Yttling, of Peter Bjorn & John), as well as new songs from Banhart, Rogue Wave, and Beirut. The latter’s “My Night with the Prostitute from Marseilles,” incidentally, gives you a healthy idea of why they’re Portman’s favorite band – pretentious title and all. Head over to iTunes, drop the eight bucks, put on your favorite ironic tee and/or hoodie, and help change the world.

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