Review – “Alta Falls” – The Barr Brothers

reviewed by Lisa Wiklundbarr10

Montreal folk quartet have surprised fans with the release of Alta Falls, the EP of “misfits” according to the band.

The EP consists of the band’s favourite cast-offs from their sessions recording Sleeping Operator (released October 2014), which produced an incredible 40 songs total.

Sleeping Operator explores a complexity different from their first self-titled album—perhaps a reflection on the growth and life changes each member has experienced since its conception. The songs on Alta Falls similarly reflect a more mature sound. The band juxtaposes lyrical intricacy with stand alone acoustics and percussion, while simultaneously experimenting with different instrumental combinations courtesy of harpist Sarah Page and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial.

The opener “Oscilla” eases listeners into the rest of the EP by introducing the textured acoustics and vocal harmonies that are layered throughout all five tracks. Its length affirms it role as the prologue to the album, blending seamlessly into “Burn Card.”

“Burn Card” is Alta Falls’ strongest song and could easily have held its ground on Sleeping Operator. Regardless, its presence creates a well-rounded EP that would otherwise be lacking a hit track. Similar to Sleeping Operator’s “Even the Darkness Has Arms” in its use of strings and fast-paced vocals, both songs contribute heavily to the folk vibes of their respective albums. Lyrics like, “I asked the moon for orchids/she said how about a drop of blood from a rolling stone” illustrate the band’s quirky way with lyrics that is complemented by Barr’s vocals. The faint loon calls sprinkled throughout make for the perfect cottage song, accompanied best with cold beer and a northern Ontario sunset.

The final track, “May 4”, is most comparable to “Oscilla” in its minimal lyrics and emphasis on acoustics and sudden moments of percussion. As such it provides a cohesive structure to Alta Falls as listeners come full circle in their experience with the EP. The track evokes similar feelings of curling up in bed on a lazy, rainy day with a steaming cup of tea– utter peacefulness.

The overall folk aesthetic combined with richly varied instrumentals makes for easy yet interesting listening—a pleasant surprise coming from an EP of rejects.

Top Track: “Burn Card”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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