Collaboration, experimentation: these factors are the stuff of vital energy for any musician looking to expand their creative powers. For Vancouver’s Dave Gaudet, The Never Surprise has been a vehicle for both. Gaudet has refocused the creative energies of his band and brought together a young, talented team of Vancouver-area indie scene killers in Robbie Driscoll (Hannah Georgas), Adam Nanji (The Belle Game), Niko Friesen (The Zolas) and Andrew Braun (Rococode) to produce Winters.
The album blends modern West Coast indie sounds with folk rock and electronic textures. The production style feels easygoing and listenable whether on a chilled-out tack like “Limousine” or going for punchier hooks as on “No Real Me.” Gaudet’s intricate songwriting leans toward the introspective, tackling tricky metaphors for identity, constructed reality, vanity and personal authenticity.
Winters introduces these themes right from the get-go. “No Dispute”, with its refrain of “I only look alive…” is one of the record’s best songs. It introduces Gaudet’s smooth, dark vocal timbre and an affinity for hard-soft contrasts that will be repeated throughout the record – in this case deliberate, chugging chords overlaid with waves of drones and gauzy fuzz, strategically placed cymbal washes off in the distance, a slowly building sense of post-rock grandiosity wrapped in a tender folk ballad. The title track then takes these ideas and expands them before letting organ-like swells and shifting modulations take over, sending the whole thing boiling into a heady crescendo vortex.
For the most part, though, Winters is less about brewing sonic strangeness than it is about making approachable, thoughtful indie with a diverse, engaging sonic palette that plays with breaking the constraints of the usual plastic-wrapped package. Songs like “Aurelia” and “Picket Line” balance sweetly folky melodic movement with just enough bite and buzz around the edges, maintaining clarity and energy while being unafraid to let space, distance, drones and dissonance take their place at the table.
Top Tracks: “No Dispute,” “Winters,” “Picket Line”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)