O My Heart
Last Gang Records
By Jose Fritz
You may have noticed the pattern. There has been a Canadian invasion, one that makes Vancouver into the new Seattle. It’s 150 miles away from that city and its coffee-centric indie worship. There is no fence, no field of landmines, and no form of area denial at our northern border. Hoards of skinny Canadian hoodlums in tight pants are pouring over that ever-so-porous border. It seems that maybe, just this once Bill O’Reilly was right.
The song “Body” begins in the world of orchestral pop: an ode to all things anglophile, but segues into a chorus of hazy Verve b-sides. They are ninja-masters of the building song crescendo and the singalong lyric. They burst into absurd breakdowns and nonsense lyrics in these oddly endearing ways as songs build themselves up as if Black Francis himself was on hand as the master mason, mastering the absurdist pop hook. When a clarinet appears and plays five notes and then departs without a word, a promise or diminuendo, there remains no other possibility.
They alter the pitch of the vocals in ways that Ween would appreciate in their own mushroom-noshing way; I lose track of who’s singing lead. Ryan may begin in a strained yet smooth falsetto but then he reaches higher, and then the vocal effect makes him indistinguishable from Ali and Molly. They harmonize flawlessly like three sisters except there is one pair of testicles shared among them.
I’ll admit that on cuts like “Ghosting” it goes too far and the pristine vocals lose me. The Archies did it and went to the extremes of disposable pop. The Beach Boys did as well and in a number of unexpected ways. The idea seems old, even trite, but there is a precedent for unconventional and even experimental application. There is always is a place in the world for a group that can harmonize.
“Hay Loft,” while again perfectly harmonized, doesn’t sustain the notes. Instead, the rhythm is staccato, broken into jagged parts like Missy Elliot’s “Gossip Folks.” Voices are instruments they just have the added obligation of meaning. In its absence it becomes an album entirely about vocals, lush sound and every possibility that entails.