Paul Stewart returns backed by an expansive and even-tempered band. What better time than this oddly warm western winter to look with open eyes toward the summer? Paul is a lyricist at home in the modern world. Previous, more introverted, albums explored the world of antennae and telecommunications with a graceful delicacy. Here again, concrete and traversed distance paints Stewart’s voice with longing. Turn these songs up and let them guide your bus home.
Tamara Lindeman returns with a soft-spoken reflection on maturity and on love.
When do we become conscious of the passing of time? The first signs of autumn: the stiffness of cold creeping into the fingertips. Even the most careless passing actions form habits: potential becomes kinetic, dreams become narrative, actions define us, form the lines on our skin and hands.
Lindeman writes with a casual openness, a comfortable intimacy. “What am I going to do with everything I know?” she asks. The firmness of her intonation here is a sharp contrast to the whispered tailings of her singing, the plaintive moan of steel strings longing for simplicity. Even as we tip on this fulcrum we are still more dream than reality.
Indeed, we find depicted here the realization of a fascinating and mature relationship. Lindeman provides a strong and concise character who falls in love with a vulnerable man. The adult-ness of their communication is a refreshing deviation from any more dramatic proclamation of love; the non-speak and mind-read and casual touches of a live-in partner define their relationship. Even the proposal that seals their direction is a casual word from the side of the mouth, a gentle toss to a knowing receiver: soft enough not to bruise, firm enough to be caught.
Endings are the cost of direction, beginnings are the function of maturity. We choose to control our directions or find ourselves adrift. We are all moving.
This is a record to savour and to internalize: stare into its surface until you recognize a reflection.
Graham Nicholas returns with a collection of portraits, his penchant for cutting directly to the core of his characters on full display and a strong backing band propping up his compositions.
Pleasantly, Nicholas revists some old tunes, fleshes them out with the distinctive swell of an Aaron Comeau-produced backing band. “Penny” acquires a driving force, an energy hurtling the narrator’s weak and straining heart toward its ending. “Wandering Angel” evolves from soft-spoken duet to contender for song of the year, evoking open highways even as the lyrics cut to the bone and draw blood: mother and father casting a mold for a molten son.
Indeed, Nicholas’ characters are on full display here. His lyrics are a surgeon’s scalpel, spreading open the motivations and fears of his characters with a challenging clarity. Even when his tracks acquire an upbeat drive, as in “Sunday Kinda Love,” even then the song’s sense of humour and unabashed eroticism displays the honesty and intimacy of Nicholas’ songwriting. In this track in particular, the backing band flexes its muscles and provides a well-timed reprieve from a tracklist in danger of becoming ballad-heavy. How welcome it is to find a folk singer with a talent for balancing clear songwriting and the need for pace and variety.
Sit on the front porch, pour a cup of black coffee, and listen through.
Pink Film. The first record that Eamon McGrath toured, crammed into a van folding album covers on the steering wheel, hauling ass across the shield for five shows. His subsequent and ongoing travels are writing Canadian legend: always moving, always making.
Five years later, and I’m still taking this record with me. The lonely steel of “Caves;” the shuffling baseline and hoarse chorus of “Holy Roller;” the hounding, foraging, early-evening need of “The Civil War.” I’ve shouted along with “October’s Daughters” for more wine and whiskey. My spine still shakes when I listen to “The Republic.”
Eamon’s words have always been older than his years. His voice is a barrel of whiskey aged in oak, steeped in cigarettes and long drives. These songs were a moment of reflection before his next bombastic foray, the calm before the storm. The writing has an historical weight, at once situating his stories in modernity and freeing them from history.
You will recognize a few songs that made it onto “13 songs of Whiskey and Light” (although Darby Crash and Burn Guitars has been removed from this iteration of “Pink Film”). Visit Eamon’s Bandcamp page for a few other rereleased collections: “Throw Me To The Wolves,” “Screaming Hell,” and the excellent “Zebra.”
A spacious solo offering from Jon Hynes, who collaborates with Toronto’s Donovan Woods. There is a great sense of atmosphere to these songs, instruments calmly coming together, acknowledged by a strong cover of Bry Webb’s “Undertaker”, the steel and fragile picking reinterpreted with reverb and a quietly yelped chorus. The subdued crescendo of “Forever, Kathleen” is a bridging of wide distances; the assured finale “One More, California” is a steady march forward. I appreciate the consistent pace of this record: assuring, never dawdling. Open your windows at night time and listen closely.