Though long delayed, Today We’re Believers has proven to be more than worth the wait. In short, it may be the most creative Canadian album released this year. Period. A bold statement to make, but allow some qualification.
It’s one thing for a band to bring a fresh perspective on a genre perceived to be saturated. It’s another thing for a band to blend two genres together masterfully. It’s still another thing for a band to successfully throw pretty much everything into the metaphorical blender and have it come out as something not just palatable but addictive as hell. In case it’s not clear, Royal Canoe achieves the latter.
Those already familiar with the Winnipeg six-piece should recognize three of these songs from previous releases. Early on there’s the vaguely tropical “Hold Onto the Metal” with its clap-inducing chorus. The explosive “Bathtubs” makes a perfect album centrepiece thanks to its killer bass line and equally killer chorus filled with gang vocals and the sounds of a church bell. There’s also “Show Me Your Eyes,” whose propulsive drums, sinister guitar lines and dramatically-building vocals add up to perhaps the highest-energy song on the album, which says something.
The new tracks more than hold their own. “Button Fumbla” is the best example of the band’s incorporation of hip-hop influences along with lead vocalist Matt Peters’ liberal use of pitch shifting. “Birthday” features an entirely organic building of sounds, starting with tropical synths and percussion, then steadily adding a cool bass line and a foreboding buzz in the background.
Toward the end, it almost feels like the album is taking a breather before subverting expectations. “Nightcrawlin” might at first sound like a slow jam, but eventually builds to a (pitch-shifted) roar. “Stemming” starts off light, before Peters’ heavily-distorted vocals make the song feel like a kind of weird, robotic opera. Those vocals continue on into the quick “Light,” which begins sounding like Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” before shifting into a great clatter of crashing keys and a drum machine.
Closer “If I Had a House” is one of the album’s standout tracks, with Peters sounding particularly crazed on vocals, especially as he repeats lines like “I had a chance but I fucked it up” later on in the song.
Royal Canoe’s creativity is almost unmatched, but so too is their ear for arrangement. They make the most of their large band—anyone who’s seen them live can attest to their massive presence on-stage, augmented by the massive amount of gear that they take with them. Every song brims with as much as can be fit into a single recording done by six people.
Royal Canoe shouldn’t be the only believers once this album is heard.
Top Tracks: “Bathtubs”; “Button Fumbla”; “Show Me Your Eyes”; “If I Had a House”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*