With five albums to his name, Paul Bergman may very well just be a veteran of the Canadian indie game. But he still felt inspired to push himself for his latest offering, Anthropology, shaking off his usual routine of pulling an album together off the floor in a matter of days. Instead, he hoarded up songs for over four years, explored a number of locations, and enlisted the help of Winnipeg’s John Paul Peters and Michael P. Falk.
The long wait and arduous, demanding recording process he imposed on himself, has culminated in a stunning compendium of songs. Bergman’s voice flows over the notes, smooth with hints of country on “Night is falling” and settling into a storyteller rhythm for the catchy “Creeping Charlie.”
There’s a strong sense of time and place—suitable for an album named after this particular field of study—as the Altona, Manitoba resident weaves through hills and history. “Albert Johnson” is a seven-minute epic charting the tragic end of one of Canada’s early fugitives. Meanwhile “Sundogs” captures the morning spectacle of our icy winter dawns as the opening notes rise up into a lively concoction that pays tribute to the playful nature and name of the light show.
And while Anthropology is far from a stripped down effort, Bergman’s voice comes out crisp as it fills the spaces left open by a creative, knowing accompaniment. Rich and powerful on the opener and tempering into a huskier, haunting allure as the strings are stretched over later tracks, the seamless shifts are one of the surest signs of Bergman’s experience.
The chorus of “In the atmosphere” is just one example, taking the simple line and filling it with longing and heartbreak as it reaches upwards, a changing inflection turning a single line into the centerpiece of the song. And without a nod to the turn, Bergman spins out of slow-paced folk for a rollicking country interlude until “In the cellar” culminates in an echoing, winding chorus completely at odds with the jangling tune, though hardly a beat out of place.
As the album winds down with the meandering pace and well-wishes of “Happy trails, sad camper,” the final lines of its precursor still linger—reminding you that “you can always walk away” or even “walk with [him] in the wind.” As the steely acoustic guitar fades away it feels like they’re tugging you along to do just that, tempting you to also go find the sun dogs where they play.
Top tracks: “Creeping Charlie”; “Sundogs”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really good) + *swoop*