I missed this one when it came out back at the beginning of the year, but it was probably one of those on-purpose accidents, as there is something in this hushed, portentous, echoey acoustic ballad that resonates with me in the middle of this seriously wacked-out weather. There’s a stifling stillness in the air during a heat wave, you don’t even have to go outside to feel it, it seeps through the building’s walls, suffuses the remedial air conditioning, makes effort—any effort—sad and impossible. This song is kind of like that, only pretty, also. Bonus for particularly relevant lyrics
(“Sometimes the weather don’t change/It just stays in the very same place”).
And it’s all so very quiet, with whispery vocals, tightly recorded acoustic guitar (you can hear fingers squeaking on the strings), and a really effective keyboard drone in the background, grounding the piece in something electric and threatening.
Postdata is a Canadian duo featuring Paul Murphy of the band Wintersleep and his brother Michael. The self-titled, self-released album has been out since January. The songs were born during a visit to their parents’ home in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. They were recorded on a laptop originally, then reworked a bit some months later in Halifax—mics, at least, were added, but they still used the laptop. So if you hear some lo-fi distortion here, that’s why. And for once I don’t really mind the roughness of the recording because the intimacy isn’t compromised—it might even be augmented.
Harboring as many as 19 people in its fold, the veteran Canadian ensemble Broken Social Scene is one of those loosely organized “collectives” that the indie rock scene has often favored. But on its first album in five years, Forgiveness Rock Record, set for release next month, the group was prepared to act more like a stripped-down (for them) six-man band, largely because of difficulties getting everyone together to record.
Harboring as many as 19 people in its fold, the veteran Canadian ensemble Broken Social Scene is one of those loosely organized “collectives” that the indie rock scene has often favored. But on its first album in five years, Forgiveness Rock Record, set for release next month, the group was prepared to act more like a stripped-down (for them) six-man band, largely because of difficulties getting everyone together to record. And so the six prime movers–led by co-founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning–did the writing and arranging; but in the end, go figure, pretty much everyone showed up after all, including Amy Millan and Evan Cranley from Stars, Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw from Metric, Leslie Feist, and some 15 others. It just can’t be a BSS record without a crowd.
“World Sick” is the album’s lengthy opening track, an almost seven-minute composition with the big bashy sound of an anthem, the unhurried development of a prog-rock opus, and an itchy-echoey ambiance that stitches its ambitions together. The band is guitar-heavy (four of the core six are guitarists) but uses its instrument of choice judiciously. What we get is nothing like the muddy, canceling-out effect of those silly rock-celebrity gatherings when they bring nine guitarists on stage to celebrate someone’s birthday and you can’t hear any of them. Here, it’s all about dynamics, about presenting an effective spectrum of sounds from soft to loud, from individual notes to chords, from melodic lines to crashing walls of noise. And while I’m normally not too keen on long instrumental outros, I don’t mind this one, both for its subtle interplay of guitar and rhythm and nature sounds and for the thematic statement it makes in the context of its somewhat inscrutable but obviously world-weary lyrics.
Forgiveness Rock Record is due out next month on the Toronto-based Arts & Crafts label. MP3 via Magnet Magazine
While beat-oriented songs usually puzzle me (okay: bore me) more than engage me, “On Giving Up” offers some extra hand-holds of interest and allure that make it more, to my ears, than just another manipulated groove of a song.
Let’s start with the beat itself, in which a blend of distinct sounds become difficult to pry apart aurally, and create, together, something larger than themselves. You can hear it at the very beginning: there’s the deeper, thumpier part; there’s something of an electronic tom-tom sound closely aligned with the thumpier sound (but note how the tom misses the third beat, playing only 1-2-x-4, which helps give the song its late-night swing); and then there’s this distinct, higher-pitched sound, almost like an electronic wooden drum, delivering, off the beat, what feels like the song’s central rhythm. And, phew, look: all these words to describe something happening nearly below conscious awareness and before the song even really starts. Maybe that’s why I usually steer clear of this stuff.
So anyway then comes that reverberant synth melody (0:09) and slinky bass line (0:17) and, lastly, Mary Pearson’s floaty, echoey, Beth Gibbons-y voice, equal parts burn and withdrawal. Partly I suspect this needs to be heard at ear-vibrating volume on a foggy and mysteriously lit dance floor while surrounded by blissed-out, slightly sweaty strangers. If you get there let me know how it is. “On Giving Up” is from this Brooklyn-based duo’s second album, High Places vs. Mankind, set for release in early April on Thrill Jockey Records. MP3 via Pitchfork.