by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: January 28th, 2014
The following line from the opening track of ‘The Written Years’ reads like an unstructured stream of consciousness: “Through our broken thoughts that grew in us, I’ll signal back to forgotten friends and tell them that I’ll make it back again, but they’ll be gone like you and I’ll have no place to come back to when our homes all get sold and walls become worn and old.” But if that leads you to think you’ll be left adrift with no verses or chorus to hang on to then you’d be wrong. The trio calling themselves The Written Years put out stories of intense lyrical depth, but they package them in an attractive indie pop wrapping. You may be at a loss to think of a catchy phrase that you can sing in the shower, but the song structures and instrumentation are engagingly familiar, creating a musical work that is just as approachable as it is accomplished.
The aforementioned opener, “It’s Not Your Fault”, starts with a slow build up of eerie electric and electronic sounds before finally erupting like a burst piñata revealing its multi-coloured power pop goodies. Yes, it’s bouncy, damn-near danceable, stuff. Then Ouellet’s voice comes in with a quavering vulnerability that you might associate with those mid-eighties British singers of faux art rock. But Ouellet is no poseur — there is a strength and conviction to his vocals, and for good reason. These boys really have something to say.
“It’s Not Your Fault” sets the blueprint that is followed on most of the tracks on the record. Exceptions to the rule would be the two more folksy numbers “The Phone is Ringing” and “The Station”, and “Homesick Dirge”, which is more of a blues downer. Throughout the entire exercise the band keeps our ears filled with a rich diversity of sound, which is all the more impressive considering there are only three of them (OK, in the studio they do add a rotating bassist and some guest backing singers, but still…)
‘The Written Years’ is one of the most note-worthy debuts of the year. However, these guys have been kicking around the Vancouver music scene for so long that it seems odd to think of them as newcomers. The album actually took them six years to put together. It will be a crime if they make us wait that long for their follow-up.