5 ON THE FLY Five mini reviews all in one place.

Prairie Cat – Is Cary Pratt

Cary Pratt (Mounties) releases another album of sheer pop enjoyment as Prairie Cat. As on previous releases, such as 2014’s ‘Who Knows Where To Begin’ Pratt demonstrates his keen ability to craft an earnest and yet pleasurable tune. You could call it variations on yacht rock, but there is funk thrown in (“Leaving Today”), some Beatlesque touches (“Did You Dress Yourself”) and ‘70s soft rock (“Wrong”). These are nicely crafted songs with a light touch and some very personable humour.

Prime cut: “Wrong”

No Museums – Surfers To The Beach

One-man-band No Museums returns with one of his most engaging releases yet. All of his lyrical prowess is intact, as evidence by the song “In a Camper Van” in which the couplet, “The ghosts stand through me, the ghosts will not believe/White expanding, I’ve locked my land” could refer to snow covering the landscape or alternatively to the invasion of Europeans. But there is also something more effusive in No Museums’ post-folk pop this time out. No, it’s not quite “surf music” but there is quite the energetic jump in that western twang.

Prime Cut: “In a Camper Van”

Wired To The Sky – Steady Sparrow, Steady Flight

The interesting thing about ‘Steady Sparrow, Steady Flight’ is how the timbre of Dylan Perkons’ voice changes to suit the mood of the song. He sounds tired and weather-beaten on the pedal steel blues “Work to Live”, but warbles more like a skylark on the more upbeat “Walk a Mile”. He has the folksy, uncertain air of the common man on “Where We’ll Go”, but on the southern-gothic alt-country “Hard Times” he sounds quite sinister and foreboding. This ability on Perkons’ part makes all the difference because on an album like this it is all about mood.

Prime cut: “Hard Times”

Blimp Rock – Soap Opera

Blimp Rock’s mastery over the irresistible pop song is quite something. “Wet Hot Canadian Summer”, for instance, has such a ‘50s golly-gee sound (even though it is more of an indie popper) that you’d swear you’d known the song all your life. Elsewhere there’s easy-going folk (“Duet With the Devil”), jangle pop (“I Love My Cat”) and punk pop (“Raccoon Nation 2”). There is never a non-fun moment and it really helps that everything is approached with that same self-aware, self-referential, self-deprecating humour that Canadians are known for.

Prime Cut: “Dear Science”

Clio Em – Gravity Wing (Soundtrack)

Baroque chorale music sung in space. That pretty well sums up Clio Em’s work ‘Gravity Wing’. Em is a classically trained musician, composer and singer, which would explain the touches of opera and the Baroque. She is also a science fiction writer, which would explain the story behind ‘Gravity Wing’, a space drama set in the colony of New Canada. The music throughout the album is so acoustic and minimal, however, that it works on a more personal level than a cosmic one. This personal connection is reinforced by Em’s beautiful and versatile voice (she does a great Edith Piaf turn on “Joyeux jour de l’amour”) which is endearingly intimate, despite the precision of her craft. When she harmonizing with herself with an operatic singing voice on “Milo and Celestine” you may well think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

Prime cut: “Milo and Celestine”