Canadian artists have a lot to offer
Credit: CAIRO - CAITLIN LAURA PHOTOGRAPHY MUSIC MAPLE RECORDINGS, SAVVIE - LEIGH REIGHTON
The True North strong and free breeds great artists and CAIRO and SAVVIE are just two examples of the talent Canada can produce.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Indie ambient folksters CAIRO have been floating around Toronto’s scene in its current form since 2011, releasing the EP Young Love on Bandcamp in 2012, while more recently playing Toronto’s best music festival – NXNE – last year. After a successful PledgeMusic campaign this past winter, the quartet debuted with its full-length album A History of Reasons on January 20.
CAIRO sets out with a new blend of iconically Canadian folk and ambient post rock-the soulful violin accompaniment of Caitlin Grieve instantly throws a wrench into classifying the works though. Lead vocalist Nate Daniels belts out a traditional Canadian folk voice, first giving melodic lullabies, then switching to hauntingly hollow sounds, while guitar work by Dante Berardi Jr. give stretches of floating riffs, nicely overlayed with Grieves orchestral arrangements. Throughout A History of Reasons, Matt Sullivan’s drum-and-base percussion keep the tracks on course, giving a slightly ‘90s rave feel in songs like “One At a Time.”
CAIRO’s sound leans towards a Canadian Imagine Dragons/soft Vampire Weekend sound, which ultimately means nothing when songs like “Seventeen” bring the album to a slow acoustic folk grind, melodic love sonnets emerging consistently throughout. Around the halfway mark we melt into “Kingdoms,” a Latin music-inspired post rock piece, flecked with rock hooks and ending with Grieve’s loud full-bodied violin work. The end track “Nothing” fades into a soft slow reverbed laced nothing, allowing for almost seamless looping into the title track again.
But A History of Reasons is also boringly repetitive at times. The title song – while catchy – seems too long and drawn out. Song writing within sometimes feels vacant, relying on simple rhyming structures more than it should. With a band that tries to break so many musical boundaries, I found the actual lyrics to be the most lacking overall. Though, there is a lot going on with CAIRO on this record. “Starry Eyes” give the feeling lyricist Daniels is struggling with his religion, a theme hinted at throughout the album. “With You” evokes the call home, returning to nature, and a fight never over.
Still, A History of Reasons gives something new to this jaded listener’s ears.
SAVVIE – Night Eyes
Rating: 4 out of 5
SAVVIE is a strong departure from creator Savannah Leigh Wellman’s previous music ventures. In her folk outfit Redbird, Wellman lead as a soft singing guitar player.
Now, tuned into a harder gritty sound, SAVVIE’s rock layered ‘70s funk/disco leads to Wellman belting it out with an indie rock voice like Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Her debut album, Night Eyes, released February 10 through Wellman’s own label, Tiny Kingdom. The premier work is a blend of sprawling sounds and mixed genres giving listeners a lasting impression of Wellmans musical capabilities.
“Without You” and “It’s OK” gives the listener a look into ‘70s style exploitation movie music, the tracks reminiscent of The Kills/The Dead Weather Alison Mosshart. During these tracks it felt like a Tarantino movie should have been playing while I listened – the overall tone of “It’s OK” slightly mundane but with something interesting keeping your ear listening.
“Gravity” places Wellman in a duet with producer Matthew Rogers, evoking the ‘60s Nashville country music duet, almost a Dolly Parton or June Carter feel – continued through the album on the track “Where I Wanna Be.”
The trio “Trust the In Between,” “It’s OK” and “Dreams of Surrender” all gave a distinct sound which I’ve only heard in one other band before, a small husband and wife duo from Chicago called My Gold Mask. Adding simple psychedelic and Latin rock riffs, mixed with crisp lyrics and a solid percussion- backing make the three songs stand out together.
While SAVVIE’s sheer overall variety was a welcoming change, I found about two thirds through the album started sounding familiar, like I’d already heard the songs before. Sounds, riffs, and themes are reused throughout the album; and while sometimes this works to unify, other times it comes of as a monotonous sound you want to get through. But a style has to develop somewhere, and this is just the beginning for SAVVIE.
Never hearing Wellman before, I look forward to future releases and shows in Ontario – currently she calls B.C. home.