One shouldn’t be penalized for mistaking the first seconds of this EP, recorded live at Toronto’s Church of the Redeemer, as a minimalist, lo-fi studio recording. The finger-picked guitar on “Moving Pictures Silent Film” slips gently back and forth between the lull of winter and the awakening of spring, and while itâ€™s deciding the songâ€™s subject—a bear—awakens after a long hibernation (â€œOh wake me now when this is over/Oh when the ice has melted away/And the hunger returns/I will be the same but older/And maybe twice the bear I thought I wasâ€). The only evidence that it’s a live performance comes with the muted applause at the very end. Like everything else that follows, this song is beautifully monochromatic folk music that evokes frozen lakes and chilly nights of silence. It whispers everything around you to sleep, but always leaves the slightest chilly trace of melancholy and despair trailing right behind (which couldnâ€™t be more appropriate, physically and emotionally, considering the bandâ€™s Canadian roots).
“I Am Part of a Large Family” starts slowly, holding its refrain until singer/songwriter Tony Decker, followed by joyful strains of banjo and prominent backing vocals, launches the chorus,.A buildup of empty space and atmosphere sets up the all-important banjo, which arrives to remind us of the melody just before the song fades away. The vocals, too, are mostly atmosphere. Decker is occasionally joined on vocals by band member Judie Fader throughout, but the words are just accompanying sounds; their meaning is spread out intermittently, but their affect is an essential part of the space and atmosphere the music emits. The entire EP is an excellent example of lovely melodies that are unable to lodge themselves into your brain for more than a few moments; with every strum, the melody feels completely new, and every finger-picked banjo part as fresh as when we first heard it.
â€œThere is a Lightâ€ closes the album with the same tone it began with, this time trying to fully push away the foggy veil of winter against the windowpane and replace it with an anti-war folk ballad by a Canadian. The song starts something like all the rest, â€œThere is a light in you/I have fallen into/There is a light in you/Iâ€™ve fallen into,â€ before making its dramatic shift: â€œI will not fight you/Just to spite you . . . And if love is a war/I wonâ€™t have anymore/If if this is what we call a war/I wonâ€™t have it anymore.â€ Itâ€™s almost as dreamy as the rest of the EP, but the lyrics are clear and obvious if they do rhyme far too easily. At any rate, one canâ€™t help but admire strongly-delivered songs about bears stirring somewhere north of the border and help but forgive occasional flaws usually hidden by exceptional delivery.
Timothy Zila is a pop music critic for Patrol.
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