As I review more and more musicians from Alberta I’ve been noticing that the music produced there seems to have a completely different energy than a lot of other provinces. Simply put, Alberta is responsible for a lot of great weirdness. Foremost, of course, is Chad VanGaalen. And then there are also creative acts like Ghostkeeper, WAND, Goose Lake, Tyler Butler and so much more.
Esper Records, the label run by Jesse Northey, is no stranger to this blog. Having put out numerous quality releases by The Record Holder, The Utiltities and Jesse and the Dandelions, the latest release comes from Lethbridge singer-songwriter Brenna Lowrie. Northey has once again found a gem thanks to Lowrie’s psychedelic folk styling.
The Body Electric will not, right from song one, keep you in an inescapable grip. That’s likely not the point. The album is more like a far-off wave; it comes closer and closer to you until you’re completely enveloped in it. The album is ultimately electrifying, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Lowrie seems to juggle the kind of impact she makes from song to song; she can play the tender, quiet songstress just as well as she plays the powerful frontwoman, and seeing her succeed so well at this makes the album thrilling.
There are no substantial drums on this album, and this allows the listener to soak in the complexities of the melodies involving multiple guitars and (in at least one song) multiple basses, plus keys and even a cello. In this sense “Placencia” sets the mood for the album- it’s an instrumental piece to give the listener a taste of what’s to come.
“Do the Jesus” immediately follows the previous song. While the song sounds like some kind of blasphemous dance move, it’s in fact a fairly simple song with little more than Lowrie’s acoustic guitar and voice.
But then there’s “Fragile Ground,” a song with sombre strings haunting the background and thick guitar strings being plucked. It’s ominous, kind of like a song that would be at home on Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief.
It’s clear that Lowrie isn’t trying to pin herself down. She even throws around some very pretty lines, such as in “End of Days,” another song with a calm atmosphere. She sings “We are cirrus clouds/High in the sky we melt away in a mist.” Or in the exceedingly lovely “Old Montreal” she sings “No, it’s not me, I’m not your guiding star.”
“Year of the Rabbit” and “Split” both show Lowrie’s adeptness at throwing some chaos into the mix. Psychedelia also seems to be a strong suit. The album ends with “Get Better,” a song that shows that Lowrie also has a hell of an upper register. It also has a great line: “Why should we die such regretters?/Why can’t we try to be better?” We as a species could probably try to follow that advice. For Lowrie though, I can scarcely imagine how it could get any better.
The Body Electric is available via Bandcamp.
Top Tracks: “Fragile Ground”; “End of Days”; “Old Montreal”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*