The latest offering from Ottawa’s Those Gulls came out less than a month ago, but it feels like it’s been around a lot longer than that. Perhaps it’s that feeling of pure staying power it has. After a listen or two, it’ll feel like you’ve listened to it a few dozen times over. The melodies will come back to you immediately, along with a couple of memorable lyrics.
Celebratory rock is probably the easiest way to describe the band as a whole, but there’s a lot more nuance to the way they build their songs on Forevermore. There are extended instrumental sequences, for example, there’s the odd bit of audible synthesizer, and occasionally the band gets so quiet what they’re doing could be called folk.
The biggest dynamic is the interplay between vocalists Andrew Grosvenor and Kate Schroder. Schroder has the “loud and proud” voice, while Grosvenor is a lot more soft-spoken. The resulting combination can make for something incredibly intimate or something incredibly stormy.
The band wastes no time in getting to a suitably epic start with “In Between,” ushered with some big drums from Pete Zachar, and Schroder then sings a few lines. Then the guitars come in, and the song really gains its majesty.
“Change My Mind” and “On Our Own” continue in that big rocking vein, with the latter sounding especially indebted to grunge and 90s rock. But when it sounds like this mode of music could get tiresome, “Friday Night” throws it for a loop. The absolutely haunting song begins with a swirl of psychedelic guitar plucking, before Kurt Borutski’s bass forms the song’s backbone. Grosvenor’s softer voice conveys a real sense of sadness in four devastating lines: “Friday night, all alone/Friday night, working late/I know it’s not your fault/My Saturday looks great.” As Schroder joins in the song works itself up to an even more emotional core.
“Tiger” is another fascinating entry, where the band’s big sound is eschewed of just guitar backing and vocal interplay. It creates a very warm atmosphere, as though the song is being performed in front of a roaring fireplace. “Cliffside” is another interesting “point of departure.” It’s a slow build as it adds guitar, then percussion, then bass, up to Grosvenor’s vocals. It gets louder and louder, adding in Schroder and then some much louder guitar to build up to a rocking climax.
The band draws their album to a close on much louder, more upbeat rock songs before concluding with the seven-minute “After the Storm.” Starting out as a characteristically “indie-rock” song, it builds to a big instrumental bridge before “Rise, fold multiply and dive/Make it out alive,” sung by a big group of voices, ends it on a high note.
Forevermore is clearly a vast collection of influences, but put together in a way that feels neither too homogeneous nor scattered. Rather, the album weaves its rock tapestry with streams of unexpected musical fabric.
Top Tracks: “In Between”; “Friday Night”; “Cliffside”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)