Arts

Deep Dark Woods | The Place I Left Behind

Six Shooter Records

A

AN INTENSELY CANADIAN blend of roots and folk, the Deep Dark Woods’ timeless melodies spread warmth like a fire on a blisteringly cold winter night. In their latest album, The Place I Left Behind, the band explores the same themes of heartbreak and isolation that won them Best Roots Group at the 2009 Western Canadian Music Awards and Ensemble of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Music Awards—only this time they’ve pushed deeper into the dark, wooded corners of their souls to reveal a more mature sound.

Composed of minimalist arrangements of banjo, piano, and mellotron flutes alongside slow, soothing guitar riffs and weighty vocals, the album is located somewhere between sorrowful and inspirational.

Adopting long-forgotten practices, the band’s storytelling capabilities and profound respect for roots tradition make them all the more refreshing. Vocalist Ryan Boldt’s voice not only tells a story, but carries it, strong and subtle, guiding us listeners through the hardships of northern Saskatchewan with the ease and wisdom of a leader.

Opening onto the scene of Saskatoon’s rougher edges with “West Side Street”, the mellotron flute acts as mediator between a grim storyline, wistful vocals, and lighthearted harmonies. Later, after travelling to “The Banks of Leopold Canal”, where guitars longingly twang for abandoned spaces and forgotten lovers, the fiddles of“Sugar Mama” invite us to ditch the blues and strap on some dancing shoes.

Not unlike the province that formed the inspiration out of which it was born, The Place I Left Behind is a rich tapestry of beautifully contrasting elements. What are you waiting for? Explore.

—Michelle Ferguson

Roxanne Potvin | Play

Black Hen Music

B-

I WOULD CALL *Play* a pop-rock album with bluesy undertones, which is quite a change from Roxanne Potvin’s formerly bluesy, country sound. A welcome change? Well, five of the 12 tracks, such as “Let Me Go”, “Dis moi que tu m’aimes”, and “Pretty Girls” are monotonous, repetitive, and painful to the ears. However, the other seven songs showcase Potvin’s pleasant voice. At best, the music is sweet and reminiscent of relaxing summer days.

*Play*’s opener, “Barricades”, is one of the best tracks on the album, with a chorus that is both liberating and carefree. At a similarly steady pace, “Coral Reef Fishes” has a catchy riff, a more alternative sound, and robotic vocals that manage to complement the track. “Born To Win” is one of the most melodic, bluesy tracks on the album, and “Donnes Ton Mal” shares that country feel but her vocals lack strength. The album’s softness and soothing sound reaches its peak in “Seashells”, a more minimalist song that presents Potvin’s voice beautifully in a cavernous and gentle sound.

The album is well worth a listen on a mellow summer day—just be prepared to skip a selection of the songs or to plug your ears while they’re playing.

—Karen Williams

Mark Davis | Eliminate the Toxins

Killbeat Music

B+

MARK DAVIS’ NEW LP, *Eliminate the Toxins*, is a surprise hit. I say surprise, because with an album name like that you’re left wondering if this is another deep vegan lifestyle pusher who has made an album for tree huggers and doctors who have no borders. Well, that may in fact have been the case here, but regardless the album is still thoroughly enjoyable.

Right from the first track, “How Many Angels”, you’ll want to sing along to the music, which at times has some rather questionable lyrics. Lyrically speaking, the songs would have benefited from a more rigorous revision process, but the melodies are good enough to distract from the less than perfect words.

In terms of sound, think R.E.M. and a more mature Kings of Leon—this is alternative country at its finest. For a solid album that’s sure to stay in your car’s CD player, check out this one.

—Maggie Hashi

extra happy ghost!!! | Modern Horses

Saved by radio

C-

HAS ANYONE EVER told you that, sometimes, in order to gain full appreciation for a song, you need to listen to it more than once? Have you ever taken that advice, only to have hated a song more after the third, fourth, 10th listen? That is exactly the case with the latest album from Calgary’s extra happy ghost!!!, Modern Horses. No matter how many times you listen to the album, it just doesn’t grow on you—even though you would really like it to. Most of the tracks, like “Mercy, Mercy” and the title track, begin promisingly and it isn’t long before you’re itching to forward through the song in the hopes that it’ll pick up. A word to the wise: Don’t hold out much hope. This album just plain stinks.

There are moments in “So At One” and “Fire on Fire” where the 1960s pop beats and psychedelic sounds mesh together to create something enjoyable, but the vocals and lyrics distract from the merit of the music. If you’re looking for one or two tracks to put on your iPod that you can enjoy, go for “J2349” and “So At One”. Other than those selections, this album is one worth missing out on.

—Maggie Hashi