5 ON THE FLY: Five mini reviews all in one place
NO MUSEUMS – Frightening Camera
The enigmatic No Museums (I still don’t know who he is) puts out his second full album of material this year. It’s a good thing that his alternative folk music tends to be light, even gentle at times, given the rather grim nature of the lyrics. With song titles like “Awful Things” and “This Sad Downfall” it is no surprise that his outlook on the world is a dark one (hence it is a frightening camera?). But intelligent vision is a light in the darkness, and thus the prose here is an endless source of encouragement. “I Walk With a Fox”, for example is intriguing. With the line, “When the lightship goes silent/We move still further away“, is the implication that we are moving further away from nature? Or is it something else? Reason? The spiritual world? Compassion? Perhaps it’s all of these things and more. Point is, it’s inspiring to have lyrics that you can delve into and contemplate.
THE PROVINCIAL ARCHIVE – The Provincial Archive
The Provincial Archive may not blaze any new trails, but what they do take on they crank out better than most anyone. How? With solid compositions and inspired arrangements, that’s how. The Barenaked Ladies-style tune “Church Clothes” gets a grinding guitar intro, a grungy chorus and a guitar solo that would make a ’70s glam rocker blush. Terrific fun. The power pop “It’s Easy” breaks out in the middle with some discordant guitar and atonal jazz piano, elevating it way above the pedestrian. “Absorbed” incorporates hardcore guitar to lend power to the melody. Need I go on?
JULIANA LACHANCE – HEYAHO
Juliana LaChance’s delicate voice has such a celestial quality that it often flickers right on the brink of non-existence. Non-existence in this realm, that is. Yes, she touches on the sublime and raises our spirits in doing so.
This latest collection of tunes is perhaps her finest. Neo-folk, you could say, with a welcoming touch of ’60s baroque. LaChance is a master at self-harmony, adding subtle touches to the basic vocal melody by accompanying herself. On “Trenches”, for instance, she seems to be singing two different songs at once.
Otherwise, her arrangements are not intricate — it is usually just her voice and acoustic guitar. Any artifice is stripped away. There is no need for commercial contrivance. The stark minimalism is achingly beautiful in its own aesthetic.
MOSS LIME – Zoo Du Québec
The track “Rock Paper” starts out with dissonant elements – the guitar, bass and drums simply seem to be heading in opposite directions. That is, until the vocals kick in, at which point the song somehow all comes together. That’s the beauty of Moss Lime – these three women have a way of baffling you but then winning you over in the end. It’s the odd dichotomies they create that baffle you, such as the carefree air of “Dreamboat” versus its rigid bass-line or the Rubber Soul warmth of the vocals in “Kettle” versus the clinically calculated arrangement. But then as the songs play out all is resolved and there is no schism at all. Such is the magic that is Moss Lime.
Lt. FRANK DICKENS – Sunburned
Lt. Frank Dickens (who isn’t a lieutenant and isn’t even Frank Dickens) has a rich baritone voice, which makes it enjoyable to listen to anything he does. And what he generally does is relatively gentle indie folk/pop, creating tunes that are deceivingly simple. One is reminded of The Smiths (although in arguably a different genre) and how they crafted music that was surficially straightforward but had a rich depth below the surface.
Although Dickens’ arrangements are enjoyable, and he runs the gamut from soft indie folk to high-energy ’90s power pop, his talent is truly revealed in his poetic lyrics (“The Urge to Turn Away” is, in fact, simply a spoken poem). He muses primarily about relationships and how there are so many complicating factors. At times his prose is completely accessible, such as a lament for lost love, “I think I’m introuble/I’m back on cigarettes/Remembered you’re beautiful“, but at other times the words are virtually impenetrable. No matter – you get the gist and can provide your own interpretation.
Lt. Frank Dickens isn’t exactly a household name, so you should be the coolest kid on your block and listen to this.