Royal City – Little Heart’s Ease

When I review new independent bands, I like to learn as much as I can about the project and impart the information to our STS readers. During my whirlwind research effort for Royal City, I discovered that they are a Toronto based group signed to a small label called Three Gut Records, which is a subsidiary of Rough Trade Records. During recent years, they have toured coast to coast in support of their recent albums that are classified as “Lo-fi, Bedroom Folk”. Sadly, as a result of my colossal ignorance, I cannot tell you exactly what that is or whether or not it has to be 1) inspired in the bedroom 2) written or performed in the bedroom.

Little Heart’s Ease begins with a sedate tune titled “Bring My Father a Gift, a song that offers oddly cryptic lyrics and a repetitive chorus stating “He will come.” Is the writer referring to Jesus, the milkman or the dreaded door to door salesman? After listening to the song a few times, I still have no idea what the intended message means; or did I find the song particularly engaging. Fortunately, the next track, called “Jerusalem” did spark my interest with its lean arrangement, excellent guitar work and lead vocals sounding like the fascinating combination of Neil Young and David Byrne.

During the third song, a track named “She Will Come” I had an epiphany and formulated my own hypothesis as to why Royal City’s music has been described as “Bedroom Folk” (bada-bing). In any event, this song presents a barrage of poetic words, spirited energy, and creative musicianship; and for a number clocking in at just over two and a half minutes, it is a pretty sound investment for the perspective listener.

Speaking of Neil Young; “MY Body Is Numbered” with its similar acoustic styling, vocals and obligatory harmonica, sounds like it could have been written by the journeyman songwriter during his After the Gold Rush days. Far more original and intriguing is the very short but enigmatic “That My Head Were a Spring of Water.” This song features only one acoustic guitar and vocal and like some of Richard Thompson’s recent work, is extremely powerful in conveying the pure vision of the songwriter; a concept that can often be obscured by the interpretation of more than one player.

Little Heart’s Ease is anything but a high-energy record. Many of the songs are played in a slower half time tempo and the mood of the entire effort feels melancholy and contemplative. Therefore, it is not a disc I would pop in my mp3 player while jogging down the strand at the local beach or music I would recommend for a fraternity bash. This is the kind of listening material I would prefer to enjoy while hiking in the solitude of a wooded trail or spending late night hours in my study. 

(Three Gut Records)