Somewhere in the town of Stephenville, NL, one man is making some creative music all on his own, and quickly (or maybe more than one man in Stephenville is doing this, but we’ll focus on Joptator for now). The recording alias of Joel Tourout, Jopator is a purveyor of lo-fi pop and Sheltered Memories and Other Melodies was, in true lo-fi spirit, recorded in about a month and mixed with Garageband.
The scrappy setup seems to suit Tourout just fine. He tends to layer multiple guitar lines over simple percussion and give his voice plenty of echo as he sings several songs of dreary winters along with perhaps the tiniest bit of hope here and there.
Winter is a common subject of Tourout’s songs, and given how cold it can get there, it’s no surprise. Opener “Winter Getaway” is a nice mixture of the “I give up” feeling of a long winter and the hope one feels in early March when it deceptively warms up for maybe one day before going back to cold. The prominent use of ukulele in this context brings to mind the sounds of Doug Hoyer.
But no song captures the chill of winter quite as much as the appropriately titled “Cold Nights in February.” The layer of frantically-picked guitar high notes over a slower, poppier guitar makes for a wonderfully spacey intro. And the lyrics about heavy snowfall looking pretty is a great look and how beautiful and awful snow can be.
In other ways, the winter asserts itself more subtly. In “Struggle,” which is the only song resembling a roots-rock number on the album, the internal struggle of life is framed as embracing the cold and the unpleasantness that comes with it. “Dawnlight”may in fact be an escape from winter outright, about leaving the cold behind with someone.
“Sheltered Memories” however is a dreamlike song that has nothing to do with the cold, with more abstract lyrics like “Zebra glare just shimmering” bolstered by the warmer-sounding instruments.
Having reviewed this three months after its release date, Sheltered Memories may now remind Canadian listeners of the last few ugly, ugly, winters we’ve had, but perhaps they’ll look beyond the snow and cold and maybe just escape for a little bit.
Top Tracks: “Winter Getaway”; “Cold Nights in February”
Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)