Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Pulling On A Line

Review of Great Lake Swimmers' Lost Channels and Hillside Festival giveaway

Photo By Ilia HorsburghIlia HorsburghThe discography of Great Lake Swimmers is not unlike those “one self-portrait a day for 10 years” photography projects. From one record to the next, the differences might seem superficial or even non-existent, but jump from their 2003 self-titled debut to their latest, Lost Channels, and the growth is dramatic. You could be forgiven for not noticing, as the common threads running through each record – specifically Tony Dekker’s gently haunting vocals and the slow-motion beauty of his songwriting, steeped in history and geography – haven’t changed much, but the adornment and production around them certainly has.

In addition to the gorgeously stark songcraft, the most distinctive feature of the debut were the acoustics, recorded as the record was in an abandoned grain silo. The rustic aesthetic was less outwardly pronounced on subsequent records but the spirit of it remained, seemingly infused in Dekker’s voice itself – you could put the man in an anechoic chamber and have him sing, and it’d still sound like it was coming from another world. What also changed was the musical adornments – with each album, things grew more expansive and textured. It felt like the sepia-tones were slowly bleeding away and leaving a greater palette of colours – not blindingly vibrant by any means, but certainly richer in hue. This was most evident on 2007’s Ongiara, which saw Great Lake Swimmers sound more like a band than a solo project and the pop sensibilities that had always remained as more undercurrents to the folk bubble up to the surface – these weren’t tunes for driving around town with the top down, but there was an immediacy to some of the songs that hadn’t been there before.

That trend continues on Lost Channels, which takes even bolder steps into the pop realm without giving up any of the homespun intimacy that sets Great Lake Swimmers apart. There’s a newfound sprightliness and shimmer in the record’s more upbeat moments that provide a greater sense of dynamic alongside the quiet. It’s hard to imagine “Palmistry” having a place on the first record, but on this one, following Ongiara, it makes perfect sense as an opener and sets the table for what’s probably their finest collection of songs yet, at least until the next one. The understated nature of the band and their music probably hasn’t garnered them the amount of praise or attention they deserve and many are probably guilty of taking their unwavering consistency for granted – myself included. But stopping and taking a step back, it’s hard to argue they’ve quietly become one of Canada’s finest bands and Lost Channels is one more compelling reason why.

Guelph Lake isn’t technically one of the Great Lakes, but it’s a pretty terrific little body of water and unlike the big ones, you can actually swim there without fear. It also hosts one of the finest music festivals in southern Ontario every Summer in Hillside, and this year Great Lake Swimmers will be performing on the Sunday bill on July 26 and courtesy of Nettwerk, I’ve got two day passes (one pair, essentially) for that final day of the fest to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to be a Guelph Lake Swimmer” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body. They also ask that if you’re Facebook-indoctrinated, that you join up with the Great Lake Swimmers Facebook page – honour system, I can’t follow up on ya. Contest will run until midnight, July 19.

There’s an interview with the Dekker at

MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “Pulling On A Line” (zip)
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Pulling On A Line”
MySpace: Great Lake Swimmers

Exclaim examines the whirlwind last few months for The Rural Alberta Advantage, leading up to next Tuesday’s official release of Hometowns and their July 30 record release show at the Horseshoe.

I Heart Music has taken the time to MP3-ify Woodpigeon’s set from NXNE a couple weeks back.

The self-titled debut from Reverie Sound Revue was released last week but is available to stream this week over at Spinner. Still waiting on the second stop of their blog tour, which kicked off here last week.

Stream: Reverie Sound Revue / Reverie Sound Revue

SoundProof talks to Joel Plaskett.

Exclaim has details on Cuff The Duke’s new album Way Down Here, due out September 8. Their next local show is August 9 at the CNE Bandshell for Toronto’s Festival Of Beer. Yeah. You’re going to go to see Cuff The Duke, and that’s all. Sure.

Spiral Beach have readied their second full-length album The Only Really Thing for a September 22 release and are giving away a first MP3 from it.

MP3: Spiral Beach – “Domino”

Gentleman Reg has released a couple new videos from Jet Black and talks a bit about the one for “Rewind” on his MySpace blog. Reg is playing a free show at Harbourfront Centre on July 25.

Video: Gentleman Reg – “How We Exit”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “Rewind”

Murray Lightburn of The Dears doesn’t necessarily give JAM good odds on the prospects of the most recent lineup of the band sticking together. Hopefully long enough to make their free June 26 show at Harbourfront Centre.

So the fourth of the five Canadian Virgin Festivals was unveiled yesterday for August 8 and 9 in Calgary, Alberta, and like all the others so far, you certainly can’t say it’s a predictable lineup. On the plus side, it has arguably the biggest single headliner of them all so far in Pearl Jam but thing drop off a fair bit from there, filling itself out with mid-level Canadian acts like k-os and Tokyo Police Club. I supposed Metric and Billy Talent are reasonably big draws, but it’s pretty obvious they broke the bank securing Pearl Jam. Of course, this leaves just Ontario/Toronto/Orillia to be announced, and I’ve been told to expect something within the next week or so on that front. I’m not going to spill anything but I know some of what’s been booked, have strong hints/rumours about others and all I’ll say is that it’s not what you might be expecting. Though with pretty much every band you might expect already booked elsewhere that weekend, it really couldn’t possibly be.

Oh yeah, happy Canada Day. Celebrate with a cold one, and Radio Free Canuckistan’s list of 30 Canuck singles he couldn’t live without, The National Post’s list of 10 Canadian bands you should be listening to (not all the usual suspects, thankfully), The Line Of Best Fit’s second downloadable Canadian mix and Quick Before It Melts’ coast-to-coast salute to Canadian blogs (disclosure: I’m flattered to be on the list).

By : Frank Yang at 9:24 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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