reviewed by Chris Matei
The members ofMontreal three-piece CTZNSHP have been quoted by VICE Magazine’s music outlet Noisey as being inspired by a long history of indie rock titans, starting with “Joy Division and all that 80s stuff, going up through R.E.M., and then Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, The National, Arcade Fire.”
Those are some big, big bootprints to walk in: fortunately, with the aid of prolific producer Jace Lasek (who’s worked with a stunning collection of modern Canadian talent, from Wolf Parade to the Besnard Lakes to The Dears, Suuns, Young Galaxy, Saltland and many more) they have crafted an LP full of sweeping, emotive, powerful songs that draw on classic New Wave rock and pop influences while adding a dramatic sense of scale that is all their own.
Right from its outset, All Things To The Sea shows off the band’s understanding of the blend between bright indie warmth, slick bravado and crunching power that turns “Everything Always” into a tremendously cathartic anthem even before its huge outro crashes into one last fuzzy blast. From here on out there’s ample sonic clarity and dynamic depth on display, a pervasive sense of widescreen scale and openness without compression or constriction.
There’s an encroaching lyrical darkness, a lingering sense of sic transit gloria, mingling with the propulsive energy and chiming guitar patterns on songs like “New Brave” and “Low Lives” – the kind of tension that drove the titans of “all that 80s stuff” to blast the brightest, boldest lights and synthesizers and guitar hooks they could at their onrushing demons, as “New Dark” does here. This is a record that explores the complex relationships between a fondly remembered past, a troubled present and a deeply uncertain future. As vocalist Jesse LeGalais asks: “We were gonna tear it up, is that still the plan? / ‘Cause things, they seem so different now.”
“Sunburns” blends slow-shifting guitars and echoes of Interpol’s detached melancholy with hugely dynamic post-rock flourishes. “You Needed To Know” takes a simple riff and grows it into a pulsing, frantic kaleidoscope of delay repeats and high-pitched squalls. The song cracks open to reveal a stark, gorgeous and raw ballad, LeGalais reflecting the fervour of a James Murphy or Win Butler at full emotional crescendo. By contrast, “Secret River” is the come-down, the beautiful sunset mingling with the onset of the cold night: “so long to the greatest of teenage dreams… so hot in this August sun, been so drunk for so, so long / built my nest and my best plans out of confetti again.”
It’s fitting that album closer “Kamikaze Brain” sounds like the band turning to boldly go into the unknown: accelerating, accepting, charging forward rather than shrinking back from the past. “Yeah I know the water’s rising, I can feel it in my bones / Sometimes I still get that feeling that I might have made a few mistakes.”
Skilfully merging heartfelt pop sincerity with electrifying post-punk revivalism, All Things To The Sea might have the makings of a new Canadian classic. Highly recommended.
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*
Top Tracks: “You Needed To Know,” “New Brave”