DoT – Demystify Your Shape

Phil Holtby, the man behind the mysterious DoT, invites us to demystify. DoT thinks differently about folk music. It is a lonely forest through all seasons that we are invited to traverse, soundscaped by Holtby’s stoic melodics and hermit croak. The album grows progressively more wintry and destitute as it tromps on up the self-same coniferous hills Demystify Your Shape sculpts for us. At last we arrive at the capstone “Hellmouth,” a song about swallowing, the shape devoured. There is much to be confused about in this complicated low fidelity glimpse into DoT’s creative phantasms. One starts the album yet again, trying to discern the mystical shapes Holtby implores us to demystify. It is a fractal pattern of inquiry, a shape with an encloseable space, yes, but with an infinite parameter.

Layne L’Heureux – United Hotcake Preferred

Layne L’Heureux, perhaps the most prolific songwriter I know, returns with one of his finest albums to date: United Hotcake Preferred. The album opens with a five minute missive, “Funeral of a Former Self,” that alludes to the musical renaissance L’Heureux is personally embarking on. One can’t help but revel in the new wave tones he’s tapping into, channelling the brilliance of Ian Curtis. That’s followed by the luminous “Solaris,” featuring the ghostly accompaniment of Jessica Jalbert. This one smacks of Slowdive to me—muted screams of tortured amplifiers are juxtaposed with the opiated numbness of their combined vocal chanting “DNA” with a cold objectivity that mirrors the concept itself. Most out of place for L’Heureux, these two jams are followed by an electronic piece called “Drive” that’s reminiscent of early Morr Music material, at least in their artists’ more uplifting productions. The album goes on and on like this, taking the listener all over the place, leading them through L’Heureux’s own adaptions of various songwriting styles that have spanned the last thirty to forty years. His old strengths are in full swell, all while new tricks are perfected. It’s a true pleasure! And there’s a new video for the record too:

Tyler Butler – Cradle Robber b/w Bury Me In The Garden

The balladeer of our bitter winds, Tyler fucking Butler. He is back. Butler remains the lyricist par excellence. “Cradle Robber” is fair warning that you husbands out there better not let this handsome devil around your wife. Our protagonist softly celebrates the excitement of reaping where he does not sow, if I may speak so euphemistically. Butler brings together the space and meaning of the cradle robber’s act so clearly when he says of his mistress’ cuckold: “he lays to sleep against your back, my child swells against your stomach.” Natal imagery is no stranger in the Tyler Butler lyrical oeuvre. It takes a different shape in “Bury Me In The Garden.” Here our protagonist and his darling are now well past their fecund years, but a new more naturalistic birth is possible upon the singer’s death. The darling that survives him is commissioned to plant cooking herbs and ivy on top the grave. She can ingest these herbs while the ivy wraps around the house and into their bedroom. Her lover’s materiality, imbued with his presence, imbues her space and self. We have here a modern funereal myth, if I may now speak so disenchantingly. It is a story of return that slakes the reaper’s cruel separation. It is possibly Butler’s most engrossing and spiritual love song to date. Anyone who’s known absolute love knows that death becomes a different thought in its consuming wake. Songs like this, reminiscent of Iron & Wine’s “Naked As We Came,” rise up to deal with this dizzying thought of separation. Kudos, Butler. You are a poet. As such, these songs deserve to be rendered here in full:

Bury Me In The Garden

When I’m gone my darling
gonna bury me in the garden
lay my weary head under the soil.
Raise a crop above me
of cooking herbs and ivy.
I will climb my way back to our loving home

Stay with my darling
embrace me in darkness
hold me until the morning breaks the sky.
Stay with me darling
enfold me in silence
I knew nothing until you held me in your arms

When I’m gone my darling
gonna bury me in the garden
and lay my weary head under the soil.
My body has been borrowed
from the earthworm and the sparrow.
I am everything that cycles and returns.

Stay with my darling
embrace me in darkness
hold me until the morning breaks the sky.
Stay with me darling
enfold me in silence
we are young and we are years away from gone.

When I’m gone my darling
gonna bury me in the garden
lay my weary head under the soil.
Raise a crop above me
of cooking herbs and ivy.
I will climb my way back to our loving home

Cradle Robber

I want to steal you from your man
take you far away
and build a home up in the forest
lay to sleep on your breast

So hide the things we do at night
your husband drinks in the town
I cross the long fields and pastures
find you working in the yard

I want to steal you from your man
he lays to sleep against your back
my child swells against your stomach
a raven tangle of wind

So hide the things we do alone
I press my lips on your skin
and sing a song of the forest
I am the egg theif, the cradle robber

Ghost Cousin – SCOTLAND

The temperate climate of Edmonton AB is an extreme one. Its seasons are strongly felt: summer is hot, its dryness pierced by dazzling thunderstorms; autumn is a show-off, how could it not when we’re stationed on the deciduous edge of the boreal north; winter is a bitter spectre, the thin cold air nipping at your extremities like a reaper; and a spring so collectively craved that its arrival is received with utopian exaltation. All of this can be said of Ghost Cousin. Their music is imbued with the climate of their space. The title is confusing for this reason—perhaps the appellation Scotland is meant to beg the comparison. The steadiness of Scotland’s damp climate can be heard in the steady wet reverbs hanging from Letersky’s vocal journeys  The musical composition, on the other hand, is vacuous in its white space which over and over again opens up into robust flurries of alternating warm and cold colour panoramics. We are hearing here the very eye of the photographer, trained to look up and back down, to take perspective, to orient the world differently. Up into the bright emptiness of sky goes this composer’s gaze, returning reoriented to the various palates of our northern seasons. The timings change, the crescendos crest and break softly or sharply, as they will, a seasonal geography unfurled in sound.  The result, a passive pleasure—a pacification.

Doug Hoyer – To Be A River

“I’m no longer young, with eyes open wide,” Doug Hoyer sings on “The One For Me,” off his newest LP “To Be A River”. Doug has been called a lot of things throughout his career: storyteller, troubadour, pop purveyor. But older? Wiser? Reflective? Contemplative? … Doug?

That’s “To Be A River”. That’s Doug Hoyer after traversing the country year in and year out, after taking his tunes to the Halifax Pop Explosion, Sled Island, CMJ, and North by Northeast. That’s Doug Hoyer coming home and asking “what’s next?”

That’s Doug Hoyer, taking the wonder and awe of his previous albums and focusing it on day-to-day life. Falling in (and out of) love. Having a dead-end job. Making small talk. Yearning for one’s childhood.

And yet, Doug’s playfulness, musical invention, and ability to write hooks remains intact. The punctuated horns on “One Foot”. The triumphant strings on “Forever Now”. The galactic backbeat on “Bulgogi Pizza”. The jaunty whistle on “To Fall in Love”. That’s the beauty of “To Be A River” — this is Doug tackling the uncertainty of what’s around the bend as only Doug can.

When asked what “To Be A River” means to Doug, he simply answered “It’s our lives.” It’s the ups, the downs, the twists, the turns, the highs, the lows. It’s taking the mundane, and turning it into magic. That’s Doug Hoyer, and that’s what Doug Hoyer does best.