Thursday, October 30, 2014

Listen: Jordan Klassen - "Firing Squad"

While it was a strange serendipity and the the mysterious appearance of his business card in my pocket that led to my discovery of Vancouver songwriter Jordan Klassen it was ultimately one that scratched a much needed itch for more intricately crafted chamber pop. While he's most recently been touring around his 2013 full length Repentance, next month sees the release of brand new single "Firing Squad".

On "Firing Squad", Klassen is switching things up quite a bit as he puts his subtle chamber folk flourishes on the back burner in favor of a much more pop-oriented sound. It's an exercise in ebb and flow as Klassen allows his normally gentle whisper to rise to a jarring shout to the sound of a shaker and some groovy sauntering melodies. The normal delicacy in layering is still present however, resulting in Klassen pairing together an interesting mesh of sounds to form what essentially amounts to background noise. That's doesn't reflect on it's construction, merely Klassen's delivery is so oddly confrontational that it's practically the only thing you can focus on despite the evident care Klassen's given to the song's composition.

It remains to be seen whether Klassen will continue in this more ferocious, rock-edged pop vein or if this is just a one-off single meant to keep his creative juices flowing but it firmly illustrates Klassen's pop literacy in a way that his previous works only hinted at before.

Jordan Klassen's "Firing Squad" single is out November 18th and will be paired with a cover of HAIM's "Falling".

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pitstop: Saintseneca

The path to my discovering Columbus, Ohio folk rockers Saintseneca is as nonsensical as it is winding. After seeing their ANTI- records debut Dark Arc streaming on NPR earlier this year (which I ignored for seemingly no good reason), I kept coming across them on the internet - from news articles, to show calenders, after months of hovering at the periphery of my consciousness I finally decided to give their records are spin and was delighted at them being exactly what I was in the mood for. It's been awhile since I've fawned over a good folk band and Saintseneca providing a quick solution to that problem.

Where bands nowadays are often described by what they're not doing; how they're challenging previously conceived notions of genre - Saintseneca's major strength is just being damn good at what they do. If you had to pick a thing that sets Saintseneca apart from the multitude of folk bands though it would definitely be the timbral palette that their diverse instrumentation allows them. Whether with guitars, ukuleles, banjos, or the multitudes of other string instruments the band have at their disposal, they're no doubt aided by the fact that singer/songwriter Zac Little's voice pairs astonishingly well with stringed instruments. It's not the sort of thing you'd normally notice without the context of the mass of various instruments strummed and plucked, bowed and hammered but Little's distinct voice has a unique timbre of its own - one that lends itself incredibly well to the band's full, intricate folk pop sound. Yes, Saintseneca's talent lies in its ability to align all of its various moving parts and blend them soundly without obscuring anything and speaks to the musicianship of the four musicians who fills its ranks.

That Zac Little is also an incredibly gifted songwriter also helps. Little combines Saintseneca's knack for soaring melodies and catchy choruses with an ability to affix his sincerity-tinged ruminations just so. It's almost startling precise with just the right balance of poetry and prose. Not wholly unlike Mutual Benefit's Jordan Lee. But where Jordan Lee directs his songwriting towards striking the heartstrings by means of the accessible pop medium, Little's wordiness flows with a conversation ease and those unabashedly upbeat moments a natural extension of that.

Saintseneca are one of those bands whose records makes you want to seek out their live set. Not that the recorded output isn't satisfying but the sound is so expansive, so grand that you just know that they also rule in a live setting. Luckily Saintseneca seem to be quite the fans of touring so if you don't catch them on their current North American tour, there's likely to be another in the immediate future.