Reviewed by Jack Derricourt
The Sands play an unexpected blend of folk tones and jazz forms, with some rock and roll grit thrown in like an oil slick on the beach. The Vancouver songwriters Julie McGeer and Peggy Lee have assembled a wonderful cast of characters on their newest release, produced by Jesse Zubot of Tanya Tagaq fame, to illustrate scenes that are both vast and incredibly intimate, the arrangements leading the way. The recordings are earnest, with little fat to get choked up on. It’s a mature album, Beast to Bone, and it demands to be listened to with childish glee and an appreciation of the novel.
The album makes for great pop with little to no cliche; there is such a rich collection of song material at The Sands’ disposal, and none of it is wasted: every note, every drum roll has a necessary, fulfilling effect on the record. That’s not something you hear every day, in our day and age of compression frippery. There is a general structure to be found on the album: part one, which consists of a poem-prompt, a clear image, and part two, which allows the image to take on wings of horns, piano, and guitar, and fly away in odd directions, folkways of signification. But to spell things out so simply is to boil sea water down to liquid and powder, and does not allow the little miracles of Beast to Bone to breathe freely.
The album leads off with three heavyweight tracks, but “Fall” takes on the most weight. Slow-moving three part vocals tell a tale of trust and partnership through confusion. The regal timbre of the strings and keys throughout the song produce sophistication within a tale of vulnerability.
“Against the Drift” is a personal favourite. The title lends itself to visions of Neil Young, and the lead vocal on the track leads itself even more to the wavering, individualistic sounds of the old man and his whispering madness. The closing “ooh ooh” vocals make this track a sumptuous pop two parter, made for easy repeat play.
Give The Sands credit, their cover of “Jealous Guy” by Mr. Lennon is a different take on simplicity, yet it leads back to the message of the track with powerful recognition.
Beast to Bone is a slice of life record, that refuses to cast off the brilliance of moments as they really happen. Captured thoughts and sounds dot the tracks, making them something worth listening to attentively.
Top Tracks: “Against the Drift” , “Magnolia”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)