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 character 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.
Imagine yourself treading water in a Bermuda triangle of Guided by Voices, Joanna Gruesome and the Pains of Being Pure At Heart. That’s where you’ll find Woolworm, beloved Vancouver pop-shoegaze-punk-hardcore-whatever stalwarts. You swim over as they begin playing “Heathen Too”, the first tune off their latest split with Grown-Ups. You wonder how such frenetic drumming and spirited hooks, played with such reckless abandon, would be of any use in such an absurd situation. Then they turn to you and croon “I would never run from you / honey, I’m a heathen, too.” Suddenly, nothing matters — you’re in this together. You lay back, let the bitter ocean wash over you, and all you want is to listen to Woolworm play forever.
J. Eygenraam’s Brutal Love opens on a lone tambourine, frothing for a tick like an anxious bottle of champagne before its cork pops on the irresistible cascade of guitar trickery that is ‘What’s Hip?’ It’s the kind of song and album opener that people are shushed for talking over, as the volume knob strikes six o’clock and eyes close in appreciation. It’s the only possible way to introduce the world to a songwriter as brave as Eygenraam and his collection of fun and daring songs.
Immediately thereafter lands the helpful and hilarious ‘Don’t Be Sad’, a dead-on New Wave therapy session where we’re told plainly that “pain is lame…” and that “…feeling bad is dumb.”
From that point Eygenraam and his band – whose own contributions are confident and lucid throughout – expand over hills of ripped denim rock and contract through keyholes into intimate places of tenderness and hurt.
It’s when these threads meet and run through the title track that J. is at his most eviscerating. ‘Brutal Love’ bursts through the batwing doors, a staggering, bruised piece, stabbing the organ cathartically on the 8ths, stumbling to regain its footing at the ends of phrases. Our bloodied narrator stomps through the song’s whirling mood, stopping only to ask “was my love not worth more than sex and dirt?” only to satisfy the hanging query when, as a refrain, he confesses: “I’ve been played the fool by brutal love.”
It’s a perfect and poignant climax to a tidy album whose short span you won’t need prompting to spin again and again.
Immediately swooping us into its pastoral gallop, ‘Visitor’ is an instant nostalgic injection. A rabble of breathy violins weave over a bone-dry bed of bass and ticking, spare drums. It’s a heartbreak mixtape side A opener, spooled languidly across a pensive prairie drive through Drag Cities and Dream Rivers. Singer Zuzia Juszkiewicz meets us at each verse with her ethereal creak before ushering us into the refrain, a cool and cascading hook: “I’ve come but I won’t be around for long.” Another trip around the circuit brings us to the bridge, a gorgeous plateau of soaring slide guitar that guides us back into a final refrain which revs and cycles pleasingly before – not even finishing her stanza – Juszkiewicz disappears abruptly. We’re stopped dead on the final syllable. The ride is over.
Pay attention for Vancouver’s Teenagre’s next trip to your town.