Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels
(Nettwerk – March 31, 2009)
By Matthew Ralph
After releasing three albums that mostly blend together with what has become the signature contemplative snowed in Great Lake Swimmers sound, the Canadian band returns with an album that deserves to garner at least a portion of the hype levied on Bon Iver last year.
Foreshadowed by the single “Pulling On A Line” and its accompanying video, Tony Dekker, Erik Arnesen and their accompanying musicians have taken somewhat of an up-tempo turn on this recording, calling to mind on a couple tracks at least the alternative music of my youth with the jangly guitars and up-tempo beats tossed into the atmospheric country-tinged folk mix.
This is most evident on “She Comes to Me In Dreams,” which I almost mistaked for a Smiths cover when I first heard it – its jangly guitar and toe-tapping beat poppy in a way that Great Lake Swimmers has never really been before. Think the jump Mojave 3 made album to album from songs like “Hard To Miss You” on Spoon and Rafter to “Breaking the Ice” on Puzzles Like You.
“The Chorus in the Underground” follows with a banjo and fiddle-driven barn stomper that has a Sujfan Stevens at the county fair feel to it. “Still” and the album’s opener, “Palmistry,” also take a livelier approach but this is hardly a case of what we used to call a band selling out for radio in the old days (perhaps selling out for mp3 blogs is the modern equivalent?)
Mixed in between the attention grabbers are the songs that will probably still be moving the careful listeners for weeks to come, songs like “Concret Heart,” a smooth operator that is both heartbreaking and hopeful in the same breathe and instant classic “Everything Is Moving So Fast,” a poetic treatise firmly planted in the soil of times when people didn’t seem to mind that life wasn’t moving at such a rapid pace. “What does it feel like to fall, in slow motion, despite it all” Dekker sings with the familiar airy vocals that have made Great Lake Swimmers a heavy rotation regular of mine in recent years.
The album ends with two similarly infectious songs, “River’s Edge” and “unison Falling Into Harmony,” that ultimately rescue the album from being pegged as a move in the wrong direction. I haven’t found anything to top “Moving Pictures Silent Films” from the band’s self-titled debut – the song that almost instantly made them a favorite – but I’m going to hang onto this one long after I’ve stopped annoying my wife with my singing of the album’s catchier fare.