There’s been a real shift in Canadian music over the past few years, if you’ve been paying attention. Ensembles geared up with guitars and anything else that makes noise – call it “indie-alt-folk-rock,” whatever that may mean – are tossing metrics, meters, and glossy production to the wind and pumping out a quirky, joyful noise that sounds like a cross between a teenager’s garage and a Saturday night campfire. And it’s gaining serious momentum in mainstream consciousness – just look at Dan Mangan, Great Lake Swimmers, City and Colour, and Yukon Blonde.
While you’re at it, direct your gaze toward Said The Whale.
The British Columbia band falls into that No Man’s Land of categorization, crafting a poppy sound that sporadically shuffles tones and tempos mid-song and finds appropriate places to work in a rhyme for “Edmonton.” Their 2009 release Islands Disappear spurned the fun, breezy “Camillo (The Magician),” and they’re back with their third album, Little Mountain. This record has a similar writing style that’s smarter than MTV but not so pretentious that it avoids radio waves, painted in oddly universal strokes of regionalism.
Although there are more moments where the band leans to pop rock (check out the groovy “Heavy Ceiling”), there are still plenty of times you feel that you’re standing beneath a sprawling sky at twilight. Said The Whale may be from the big city, but they’re not afraid to express themselves through stripped-down natural imagery. The whole album careens in mood and instrumentation, while it retains a homespun core of careful optimism.
“Loveless” begs to be a summer single, in much the same way that “Camillo” did two years ago. It’s got a wordy chorus, but one that doesn’t get rushed or jumbled in its articulation, and despite the darker undertones, it’s got a fun, danceable energy.
Little Mountain closes with “Seasons,” a short piano number with a sentimental bass line that contemplates each season as being the perfect time for lovers. After two minutes, there are no decisions as to which is best, and the track just ends – it could be that there is no time for lovers, but while Said The Whale don’t shy away from melancholy, that’s too bleak an ending. This is the band who, in the Decemberists-esque “Big Sky, MT,” sang: “For true love you do the best that you can / She will always be there when you wake up.”
Maybe, just maybe, it’s always the season for lovers.