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The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site

Reconstruction Site isn’t the mark of artful splendor, but it does continue the Weakerthans’ quest to forever travel the meandering conduits of personal freedom and observational exploration.

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Contrary to popular belief, we are actually in abundance of talented song craftsmen. From the low ranged pastures of those distinctly less cerebral landscapes to our deepest and most complicated entangling, men and women are at this very moment creating instrumental structures that will likely move us, shake us, appease us and upset us. We have those who at their most inspired, utilize the most unique of object collections – bending their resonance into compositions that are not only individually fascinating; but are capable of evoking the deepest of thoughts in comprehending these atypical results. They are the troubadours of musical creativity; musicians who stray away from textbook arrangements and recognized sounds and in the end, fracture previous conceptions of genres and styles. Then there are those who keep within our commercial boundaries, crafting accessible pop numbers that become the accompaniment of moving pictures and that whistling walk down the street. While certainly not overly creative, they too possess the faculty to influence and sway.

The Weakerthans fall into the latter category in most points. Their collective sound tends to range between alternative-country-pop and prairie rock, never being too challenging but grasping at our most organic of inclinations. It is however, not the attribute in which they excel in; no, that one glaring asset lies in their lyrical virtuoso John K Samson; their champion of wandering spontaneous prose. It would be of no surprise if in some way, the nomadic undercurrent that wavers through Reconstruction Site was derived on some cross country voyage with the Neal Cassadys of the world, toting Ginsberg and Thomas Wolfe. If the vast endless roads and grasslands could be translated into today’s musical offerings, The Weakerthans would be the direct result. It has always been that way, at least for Samson. During his Propaghandhi days, while Chris Hannah spoke of McCarthyism, dead fascists and homosexuality, Samson penned tunes about small town alienation and regrets; and his keen observational eye has not lost a step since staving off the staunch political jibe. And his musical sense, while a small step behind, is remarkably adaptive to his drifting wisdom.

It is fitting in a way that while his words invent so intricately; “I’m afloat / A float in a summer parade / up the street in a town that you were born in / With a girl at the top wearing tulle / and a Miss Somewhere sash / waving like a queen”, the accompanying sound naturally eases itself into the lyrical meditation. In the track “Reconstruction Site”, the gentle guitar pulling and the cozy bass line plots the travelogue while those reflective lines do most of the driving. It is this sort of hand-in-hand partnership that best connects the listener to the music in its entirety; one that prevents the sort of stagnation that comes with sounds of flurrying experimental direction. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy to point out that there has been some level of creative flat lining since their last disc, Left and leaving (2000). Their previous effort snaked so charmingly across the folk/rock/country vista, stopping at certain intervals to bask in the glow of loungesque garage sale wonderment (“Everything Must Go!”), modest spoken word beating (“Without Mythologies”) and a sense of exploration (musically) that stretched from the tundra to the swampy marsh lands.

Reconstruction Site is far less adventurous in regards to its instrumental assembly; credit the higher production value if you will, but nevertheless, the seemingly level plain in which they skate on presents the text in a greater connecting tone – a chime those searching for musical refinement will undoubtedly hear. From the unfussy rock of “The Reasons” to the uber bouncy “Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucalt in Paris, 1961)”, anyone seeking connectivity within the music will grasp at its accessible foundation and truly itinerant sense.

In the instances where they do become musically restive, they do so with much less vigor than previous outings. “One Great City!” is an endearing folky stab at the city of Winnipeg, with delicate strings-a-twinkling, it is about as musically artful as this album gets. However, it does bear the comic verse “The crowded riders’ restlessness enunciates that the Guess Who suck / the Jets were lousy anyway / The same route every day / And in the turning lane, someone’s stalled again”.

Reconstruction Site isn’t the mark of artful splendor, but it does continue the Weakerthans’ quest to forever travel the meandering conduits of personal freedom and observational exploration. If anyone were ever to forward the cause for written spontaneity and a freshness for inspirational description, John K Samson would be our lonesome scribe. And for those seeking a companion for their favorite “road” book, the music of The Weakerthans is that cross-country trip you yearn to take over and over again – a bona fide sound for that timeless vision.

(Epitaph Records)

Reviews

Hatchie – Keepsake

Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars

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Hatchie Keepsake

Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.

There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.

However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.

The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.

(Heavenly Recordings)

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