Sunday, July 29, 2007
Fortress of Solitude
The first time I saw Think About Life perform it was a sweaty, dingy affair in an Ottawa basement (59 Argyle!), complete with good friends, genuine music lovers, and pizza slices on the house. During their performance and immediately following the show, I noticed that the personality of guitarist Graham Van Pelt was visibly different than that of his fellow members. He did less of the talking and lacked Martin Cesar's swagger as well as the cathartic energy of Matt Shane. Still, one knew that being a part of this band, an off-the-wall, unconventionally spastic electro-rock outfit, must have meant that Van Pelt possessed some unseen quality comparably awesome to the more visible traits exhibited by the dude screaming and the soaking-wet, skinny drummer.
Miracle Fortress is Van Pelt's unveiling party (*though it came out late May, I've been on the road for a while, missing just about every key release of the summer). Five Roses is the masterpiece, and is without question a demonstration of the individual talent he channels subtly into Think About Life. That band's self-titled debut was a summer album for all the writers here at BTA. It reflected the freedom and irresponsibility of the humid months; it was raw, loud, and explosive. Five Roses is a completely different aesthetic, but a summer album just the same. While an early Miracle Fortress song 'Eschatology' re-created the Think About Life style with a little less tumult, the songs on the debut carve out a whole new sound. Like with Panda Bear, the Brian Wilson comparisons have been identified by almost everybody who has gotten hold of this album. The songs on Five Roses are laden with subdued vocal melodies that gradually build towards bright conclusions, all the while sprinkling keyboard and peppery percussion in the gaps to achieve those Wilson-like textures. This is most evident on 'Have You Seen In Your Dreams', where hand claps work alongside vocal echo effects. 'Maybe Lately' develops from start to finish in a very similar way. The standout track of the album is 'Hold Your Secrets To Your Heart', showcasing Van Pelt's strongest singing and a softly pulsing rhythm that hypnotically coasts to the song's end. The first time I heard it I was on the other side of the country in British Columbia, and the astonishment I was feeling from the mountains and natural beauty of the landscape was encompassed perfectly in this one song. I vividly remember making that connection, and not many songs are capable of inducing such peace. It will be an extremely good second half of '07 if this doesn't make it into the top 10.
Miracle Fortress - Have You Seen In Your Dreams (YSI)
Miracle Fortress - Maybe Lately (YSI)
Miracle Fortress - Hold Your Secrets To Your Heart (YSI)