Album Review — Beach Station Blues V

And now for something (almost but not at all) completely different.

I didn’t make it to a concert last weekend that I could review. I only attended the Beach Station Blues release show with Micah Erenberg (ft. drum synth), Holy Void and Black Cloud. And I have reviews of those guys already.

So here’s a review of the album.

Beach Station Blues

This is an ongoing passion project of Real Love Winnipeg. Specifically, this was Gil and Solly’s idea I think. The idea was to take some great bands that Real Love works with throughout the year out onto the farm and record some shit for a weekend. They have done a couple videos during the sessions out there, and once they dunked a guitar in Brian’s hot tub, and overall it seems like a lot of fun.

What they come home with is a neatly curated compilation album that’ll introduce you to some of Winnipeg’s best indie talent.

BSB V

Number 5. I have listened to number 4 as well. Actually, number 4 is what pulled me into this side of the scene. I saw Slow Spirit on it, and my friends’ band Umami, and picked it up, and then suddenly I was listening to Mulligrub and Somebody Language and Palm Trees.

The only band I didn’t know on this one is Veneer. But I think they fit right into the feel. I’ve noticed an overall continuity in tone with Beach Station Blues. I’m not sure if it’s just that indie all sounds similar, or that these guys like similar guitar pedals, but I suspect it’s a mix of that and Riley Hill’s mixing and producing talent.

It’s a specific — almost dreamy — tone that continues throughout each album, that even Veneer and Somebody Language has hints of. I think it’s a good thing because it takes this album of a handful of artists and makes it sound like a cohesive piece of art. A story, almost.

Which is why Palm Trees is probably last. I mean, Palm Trees has that long, drawn out, I-want-to-walk-into-the-dark-and-fog feeling. Something quiet and subtle and yellow streetlights shining through glistening mists of rain before it’s heavy enough to get you really wet.

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Holy Void’s keys and guitarist from the show on Saturday. Photo by Laurie Brand, @lorbrand on Instagram (go look!)

Palm Trees

Their new track on BSB V is called “Other Lives”. It starts a bit faster than some of their other work, with the drum track coming in almost right away. They have that usual resonant reverberating sound backing the track that sounds like the inside a light pink or light green metallic tube. It feels pretty upbeat for a Palm Trees tune.

I like the noises they play with, both that resonant metallic noise and the sounds of someone fucking around on their guitar strings, like dragging a pick up and down along the string, sending tendrils of noise out into the air.

They have their usual build going on, where the synth organizes itself over these layers of noise and helps to create something coherent with the drumline. As the song gently sweeps upward, the guitar starts to play a bit more of a role.

Palm Trees have a deliberate and delicate control of their ambiance and dynamics. Occasionally the bass kicks in and separates itself from the waves of sound, filling out the tone of the song and driving what might be the outline of a melody. At one point, a light trumpet tone joins in and rounds out that melody, bringing another layer to the song and contributing to an overall cohesion. Once the trumpet is in there, the guitar line joins in with more of a presence, breaking off of the melody and playing with subtle changes.

Compositionally, these guys are pretty tight, though it sounds like they get there by fucking around in a jam space for a few hours. Last is the perfect place for this track. It’s a gentle journey that  ends with closure. My prog-brain digs it, and I’m happy there is another 12 minutes of Palm Trees for my iPod.

Somebody Language

I know this guy’s real name! I heard him first on BSB IV, and I gotta say, his voice grabbed me most. His track on BSB V is called Best Friends. And for good reason, I think. He’s got a sort of creepy loop of saying “I’ll be your best friend” (I think?) underneath most of the track. It sets up an atmosphere for his bright yet haunting guitar tone.

There’s a bit of a messiness to the quiet parts of the song, where the vocal lines and backing vocal loop mix with each other, adding a muddiness to that haunting guitar. And I think it’s probably deliberate, because it really sets him up to belt it in other parts of the song.

My favourite part is his voice. The instruments are consistent, the tones are nice, there’s just enough grit in the rhythm guitar at times, and the bass keeps driving with some pretty high notes and clear tones. But his voice, his voice brings this almost anguished feeling. I can hear the roughness in the back of his throat, and I bet it’d hurt a lot if he just gave’r like that all the time.

Overall it’s a dark-sounding tune, but in a pleasant way…

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Friends enjoying music at the show

Umami

Okay guys my bias here: I’ve been waiting all fall and winter to review this band. And I’ll have to keep waiting, ’till their next show. I’m friends with everyone in the band, and I was friends with the guitar and bassist when they were in their old band, Figure, and I’m probably in love with every single person in the band. Great people. Lovely.

With that in mind, I’m happy to hear their new track Light? No., which I personally find hilarious and like, not at all surprising? That they put two forms of punctuation in a song title? And it’s just the refutation of light? (Levi were u responsible for this…)

The title speaks to the song. It leads nicely into Somebody Language’s dark tone. The guitar tone is thick and dirtier than a lot of other tones on this album. The drum line is more consistent and flowing than many Umami tracks… there’s no sudden breaks or rapid changes.

There is a great bass breakdown, where they bring the dynamics down and the vocal line trades off from Maddie’s sweet and eerie resonance. The drums kick back in with a little more tact, a bit more punch, and Levi’s voice comes in. He’s got something a bit different, that sounds almost intentionally weak.

The guitars play around overtop of each other throughout the song, creating a slightly cloudy, soupy feeling, but with clear spots shining through. And, as always, the bassline is thick and strong and provides a melodic structure for the guitars to explore within.

Play a show! pl0x

Black Cloud

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This guy’s a solid musician. I like his other band too.

This is one of Black Cloud’s most upbeat tunes. Called Where the Hell is Steve Bartman?, it starts off full-blast. They bring it down a little ways in. If you read my review of these guys, you’ll remember that it’s four string instruments and a drummer. Which makes for quite a lot of layers in their sound.

It also gives them a lot of options for dynamic control and picking which tones to emphasize. In this track, they play their usual spacey guitar tunes, no vocals, all dynamics and tones. It’s a bit of a journey in itself. Their songs feel a bit like travel.

They start of fast, and bring it down, almost to a lull with a light metallic guitar tone and punctual drums. After a while of moving slowly through a colourful landscape, the full blast comes back and everything kicks in strong again. In this second part, though, another guitar retains a strong melody and brings clarity overtop of the noisy tones and heavy drums.

I’m not sure where the hell Steve is, though. Or who, even?

Veneer

These guys (girls?) are new to me. But man, I think they fit right in. Their track Across starts with a strong feminine vocal lead, “aahhhh,” that sounds nice to me. It starts off fast, and then they slow down, she sings actual words, and then they pick it up again.

Their guitar tone fits with the BSB bill, that slightly dreamy tone, the easy-going indie tone. And they play a well-put together song, all parts intact. Her voice carries the melody along. She seems to be singing about what it’s like growing up, being told she could be anything when she was young. And now, she’s still young, but what do you mean?

The song builds towards the end, bringing it up to a bit of a climax. They throw some extra percussion in there, sounds like chimes? And adds a whimsical element that suits her voice. The drums maintain this rolling rhythm that seems to support the flow and structure of the song, guiding it through the little pathways of growing up that this song is (maybe?) about.

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I went on stage for the first time at this show! woah! photog risks!

Brady Allard

Brady Allard! With Reasons.

This song sounds to me like classic indie. It’s got a running guitar line that hops up and down through the same notes, and a solid downbeat drumbeat to match. It feels like walking, or running, or laughing and chasing your best friend when they take off to catch another friend during one of Winnipeg’s great street parties.

The chorus, “to tell you the truth / I don’t know” speaks to me. Because it’s fucking true man. Like always? Anyway,

The song develops nicely from that place it starts. He changes up the rhythm a bit, and the register changes a little, and it lightens up from the plod-plod along to a gentle jaunt.

It’s a quick song, only about two and a half minutes. But it doesn’t need any more.

Animal Teeth

Okay so I heard this track at Brian and Solly’s place like a week before the show and had it stuck in my head since then. It’s called “Gone Again“.

I’m in love with the drums. It’s such a gentle, steady rhythm. Ian has this remarkable ability to make simple sounds utterly delectable. As usual, it’s a bit of a stripped back sound. Animal Teeth is three guys and they manage to make some beautiful rhythms with very clear tones and almost simplistic writing.

A gentle stream flowing through the wreckage of my mind, this song brings such a peacefulness. There’s gentle flourishes in the guitar that bring a spice to the song, too, like small streams sporting vibrant mosses and bugs.

What really gets me is Stefan’s voice, sining “Are you alright? / Did you sleep last night?” which are two sentences that I dream of hearing from someone that cares deeply for me. Because a lot of nights, I don’t sleep, and I don’t feel alright. But this song, and his voice, the tone of his voice, soft yet sturdy, gently affirming it’s own presence, makes me feel alright.

Towards the end it sounds like they change keys a bit or something, and the drums pick up a bit, and the bass gets a little more wild. And it comes neatly to a close on a light, upbeat note.

The Micah Erenband

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Micah you guy

To start, I love the odd little musical bit in the front and back of this song. Somewhere Beyond the Ocean is a nice, upbeat tune with a sound that we’ve come to know and love from Micah (I think.)

His gentle boyish voice carries a nice melody, and the drum bits carry this song through in a sturdy way. The guitar tones are your classic Micah, that nice mix of a hint of country, a touch of blues and a lot of prairies indie. He lets some tones soar for a bit, while keeping others short and muted.

I’m not sure what more to say other than Micah keeps delivering his particular brand of beautiful prairie indie that makes me wanna be okay with having a drinking problem and keep hanging out with my friends instead of cleaning my room.

At the show, they had a Yamaha keyboard for a drummer, and I found it flattened out their dynamics a bit, but added this goofy feel that matched Micah’s sunglasses.

iansucks

Okay so we’ve already determined that Ian doesn’t suck, but he goes ahead and proves that again here with Person Box. When I heard this track I immediately was like “woah this is a bit different!” They switched it up a bit from their recently released album recording, adding a touch more space here and there and a staccato of “fucks”.

It grabbed me though. As the first track on the album, it sets a bit of a tone.

What I love most is Emma’s voice… Emma I’m super in love with your voice. I’m still a diehard Figure fan too, so that makes sense, right?

The guitar is a bit sad, you can tell. But what else to expect from iansucks? And the bass is so solid, as usual, carrying the momentum of the song. The synths come in strong in between chorus and verse, maybe as a bit of a breakdown? And add to the overall tone.

I’m not sure they expected to be the first song on the album. But it grabs me each time.

Overall

This album is pretty well composed, carrying from a light sad, to just a light indie, unsure of itself but trying anyway, to a bit darker and more composed form. It feels like a whole. And it speaks to my heart in ways? So that’s good.

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