This song from Lanterns on the Lake rules so hard that my only complaint is that it went on just a wee bit longer. Hazel Wilde’s performance on this track is stunning, yet it has this innocence to it that reminds me of Amy Millan in varying moments. Musically, you’ll find all sorts of layers to the tune. At first your focus is on the stick work at play, but eventually the guitars start to draw you in, unfolding in bursts like only the best post-rock can..it’s here when the drums take on a stronger machine-gun effect. All these signs point to a strong release for the band’s new record, Beings, which will hit this Friday via Bella Union.
Having clocked in years with Canadian indie mainstays Stars and Broken Social Scene Toronto native Amy Millan struck out on her own in 2006 to release her debut album Honey from the Tombs to mostly favorable reviews, receiving comparisons to Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams.
Arts and Crafts Records will be releasing Amy Millan’s sophomore release, Masters of the Burial, and I must admit, coming into this review the only exposure I had had with Amy Millan was her work with the aforementioned bands. Being a fan of Broken Social Scene and the solo outings of Brendan Canning, Kevin Drew, and Leslie Feist I was excited about the prospect of jangly, slightly quirky indie-pop album. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Masters of the Burial is a very mature record. The majority of the eleven tracks could easily be seen as middle of the road adult contemporary, but in the best way possible. This album is very easy to listen to, relying on softly brushed drums, well placed mandolins and, of course, Millan’s beautiful voice. On tracks like ‘Bruised Ghosts’, ‘Towers’, and the album closer ‘Bound’ it is evident that Millan could easily hold her own with the Allison Krauss’ and the Norah Jones’ of the world, just ask your parents or Brenda in the accounting department if you don’t believe me. When Millan breaks away from the country-tinged folk trappings on tracks like ‘Bury This’, the percussion heavy ‘Day to Day’, and the beautifully haunting ‘Lost Compass’, she truly shines, easily evoking feelings of loss and regret. Plus there is a cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’, if you are into that kind of thing. Like my mama always says “A cover is as a cover does…” (my mama never says that).
While this record won’t be on my end of the year lists, I have nothing but respect for it. It is comforting, and I know it has an audience out there that will love it. I just fear that, with it’s ties to indie rock, it will be shot down before it even has it’s chance to shine.
Amy Millan, the great voice behind powerhouses Stars and Broken Social Scene (at least back in the day) is gearing up to release a new album on September 8th titled Masters of the Burial. Her first single, well, it isn’t really hers, it belongs to Death Cab for Cutie, but her cover puts a different spin on the standout track. Have a listen.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/amy-millan-i-will-follow-you-into-the-dark-death-cab-for-cutie-cover.mp3]
Download: Amy Millan – I Will Follow You Into the Dark [MP3]
The free record label samplers continue this week with one from the Canadian super label Arts & Crafts. This 15 song sampler is available for download from Amazon and features all the big names from the label like The Stills, Amy Millan, The Constantines and more. Here’s one of our faves from new artist Zeus called “Fever of the Time”.[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/11-fever-of-the-time.mp3]
Download: Zeus – Fever of the Time [MP3]
Prior to Broken Social Scene taking the stage at Bass Concert Hall we were able to grab a few minutes with Brendan Canning and Charles Spearin. They talk about the current state of the band, their most recent tour, and details about their solo albums. Thanks to Robin and Brendan for all of the arrangements and preparations.
Read the Brendan Canning Interview
Read the Charles Spearin Interview
Land of Talk is yet another band from Montreal, Canada, intent upon re-creating pop music in their own likeness and bringing it to your ears. Their latest effort, Some Are Lakes, has just been issued by Omaha label Saddle Creek Records.
According to press information, the opening three songs of the album seem to revolve around the band’s earlier sound, which seems to reflect the earthy undertones of the album’s title track. It is a female-dominated sound that recalls similarities between various Canadian acts that have made their way south of the border. While these first three tracks definitely showcase the band’s musical repertoire, there isn’t anything too remarkable from these first glimpses.
Then they come straight at you with “Some Are Lakes,” which features stronger vocals from front-woman/guitarist, Lizzie Powell. Here you will find the band cleaning out their sound, ridding the song of extemporaneous noise in place of a more direct approach to your ears. “Give Me Back My Heart Attack” has the band going back a few steps, those this song definitely has a stronger groove than the opening tracks present on the album.
“It’s Okay” is one of the simpler songs on the album. Picture Amy Millan singing along to piano ballads and you’ll get the picture for this one. The band pulls it off, but it’s not altogether very inspiring. Then the band seems to pick it up from here. Land of Talk pushes forward with more Canadian influences, but they do it this time with a certain brashness that makes it all seem more worthwhile; it comes off a lot more personal. At its best when they unleash their guitars, they pull them back momentarily for what is the album’s stand out track, “Got A Call.” As it sweeps in and out, it sweeps you away in the process.
After all that progress they sum it all up with an acoustic number that doesn’t seem to stray to far from the works of Feist, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes the album feel entirely too uneven. Some Are Lakes is an album with varying levels of accomplishment, and those mainly come in the form of a band that let’s loose on the listener, releasing the power they seem to hold back for the majority of the album. It all ends without the band establishing itself as the predominant force in the music presented here, and they fail to step out of the shadow of the Canadian heavy hitters.
Amy Millan is a quite the busy lady. She sings for major Canadian bands Stars & Broken Social Scene, tours with both acts, and somehow found the time to put out a solo record. The Canadian songstress, currently on tour with Stars, answered a few questions for us before her band’s performance at last weekends ACL festival. Amy and I discuss why she won’t be doing a BSS Presents album, how Stars can win a Juno award and why MP3s are just as good as vinyl. Read about these topics and many more after the jump.