reviewed by Elysse Cloma
A Perfect Day For a Mall Date is Newfoundland artist Thom Coombes’ latest album and home recording project. The story goes that Coombes invited a friend to go to the mall with him last April, and the concept for A Perfect Day For a Mall Date was born. Inviting guest musicians and friends on “dates” to record his album, the project is the result of Coombes being “cooped up” physically and creatively.
It’s been nearly 3 years since Coombes’ last release Recurring Themes, and A Perfect Day For a Mall Date is a 23-track album comprised of what seems like 3 years worth of material. The album is a collaborative project that involved about a dozen artists from the St. John’s scene, such as Meghan Hollett, Aley Waterman, and Jake and Ilia Nicoll, to name a few. A friend of mine told me that St. John’s is full of “secretly good artists” – maybe they’re all hanging out with Thom Coombes.
A Perfect Day For a Mall Date sounds like a long playlist by various artists rather than an album by a single artist. Aside from authorship, what brings the tunes together is Coombes’ home recording aesthetic. His low-key vocal style is lo-fi on the recordings. Otherwise, the songs on the album can’t be placed in the same musical categories. Shifting across the board musically, A Perfect Day For a Mall Date is stylistically playful, jumping from blues-y rock tunes like “Old Life”, to bouncy instrumentals like “Dream Sequence” or “Orchids In the Moonlight”, which sound more like interludes than full tracks.
Guest artist Laura Jean’s solo vocals sound like a light coo over a gently strummed guitar on the rather melancholic ballad “Slow Learner”. Songs like “I’m Not Afraid of Forever”, “Track and Field” are sturdy alt-rock guitar jams to trip out to, while songs that would otherwise be mundane and weepy bedroom music are given life by warbling and atmospheric string arrangements like on “This Is Not a F***ing Love Song”. The diversity of styles on A Perfect Day for a Mall Date might be attributed to the collaborative process under which it was recorded – guest musicians wrote their own parts “on the fly” with no direction.
Finding the right words to describe A Perfect Day For a Mall Date is almost as difficult as consciously listening to all 23 tracks on the album. With such a great breadth of tunes to get lost in, you won’t realize you’re listening to the same album unless Coombes’ voice is murmuring in your ears.
Top Tracks: “This Is Not a F***ing Love Song”; “I’m Not Afraid of Forever”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)