Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers have consistently managed to put out albums of sufficient folk-pop, resting on the tightrope between overtly melancholy and cleverly sprawling acoustic-pop. Their newest album, Lost Channels is of precisely the same vein; this isn’t an entirely bad thing considering it’s done so gracefully.
Immediately, “Palmistry” establishes the album’s purpose, as the gentle voice of Tony Dekker is accompanied by a similarly gentle strumming of guitar, as other instrumental pieces flesh out the song; it’s as if the band is painting precision landscapes with a brush so gentle it barely scratches the surface of the canvas.
Every number on this album has a familiar touch, as the band never tries to push too far beyond their pre-established boundaries. The one admirable quality here is that they can continuously add layer after layer to each individual song, but never take away from the crystal-clear quality of the song. Take, for example, “Concrete Heart;” it opens with a basic approach to a soft folk tune, just before strings creep into the background, and all the while there is a tinkering piano waiting to enter stage left, completing the song. It is this delicate approach to songwriting that makes Great Lake Swimmers crafters of the perfect song; no tune has too much, or too little for that matter.
Even with a majority of the songs resting in the same spectrum of the genre, the band never stays in one place for too long, which allows them to keep the listener from growing bored. Just a song away from solemnity comes “The Chorus in the Underground,” which shifts the approach over to a more bluegrass playing field, equipped with banjo and all. It’s a pleasant enough number, but the focus always rests around Dekker’s voice.
Sure, most bands rest their case on the singer’s voice, but not all bands will utilize this as an instrument all its own. Dekker has a certain softness to his voice, which lends it to rest carefully in several different ranges of music; he can go from traditional folk to country-pop to bluegrass. Up and down he rides with his voice, but it still maintains its very distinct quality, which seems as if current artists have borrowed from its fragility.
And with each new moment on the album, comes an entirely new picture to be painted in your mind, hidden in the caverns of your subconscious. The band, like Gravenhurst, crafts their songs around a certain moment within the group dynamic, and these moments are later fleshed out to create enjoyable moments for the listener. You could describe it as organic, or as folksy soundscapes, but you best describe it as restful beauty, as this is the ultimate adjective for Lost Channels.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/04-concrete-heart.mp3]
Download: Great Lake Swimmers – Concrete Heart [MP3]