I’ve noticed a recent trend in my music collection- without knowing how or why it happened, I have become absolutely enamored with bands from the prairies (Library Voices, Northcote, Rah Rah…). The Record Holder is the latest in this list, and their new EP To Sea does not disappoint.
With sweeping string-based melodies, soft drums, and quietly lovely vocals, The Record Holder brings to mind the wide open spaces, long straight roads, and melancholy skies of their prairie homeland. This marks the second album for the Lethbridge-based quartet who sing songs about everything from disused beach playgrounds to literary villainesses.
The album puts me in mind of a number of Canadian alt-country/indie acts- from the well known and lyrically sophisticated Weakerthans, to the lo-fi earnestness of Shotgun Jimmie, all of whom make use of the same irregular cadence to turn prose into lyrics. Phrases like “The Yukon of the south” (“Safe Harbour”) and “You used a subordinate clause to clarify the depth of your disdain,” (“Dear Medea”) put them squarely in the literary-songwriting-tradition of John K Samson and Colin Meloy.
“Morning Gloom,” the opening track of To Sea, sets the scene for the rest of the album – acoustic guitar and crisply poetic lyrics, leading into lazy-summer-afternoon drumming and quiet male-female vocal harmonies. From there we go on to the title track, a violin driven ode, and then the thoughtful romantic reminisces of “Outta Here.”
The fourth track (“Dear Medea”) has to be my favourite. I have to admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for oddly disturbing lyrics paired with beautiful melodies… Lyrics that sneak up on you, ones you don’t really realize are a little ‘not nice’ until someone on the bus taps your shoulder and says, “Um, excuse me, are you singing about killing a bunny…?” And what better place to find inspiration for such a story than in classical Mythology? “Even though you broke our rabbit’s neck, threw his little body on our bed… took a knife and slit our daughter’s throat, let her blood run around the house, so I could not get inside… ” You would never guess that this sweet and beautiful tune hid lyrics so devious.
I have been listening to this EP all afternoon, and suggest you give it a similar shot- I’m guessing it will be mere minutes before you too find yourself singing beautiful melodies about killing bunnies and dying harbour towns…
The Record Holder’s To Sea is available via their bandcamp site (the CD comes with an immediate digital download, but a real live copy is sent out via the good ol’ snail mail- a nice touch when the physical album is as loverly looking as this one!).
Top Track: “Dear Medea”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)