Dubbed a traveling troubadour, Montreal’s Chris Velan finally came home to find his roots and eventually record Glow—his first in his hometown in a decade. Over that time, Velan has racked up an impressive six releases as he circled the globe recording, producing and directing the odd documentary.
Which is why Glow brings with it a little taste of all those places, mixing Montreal’s indie scene with some folk and layering it with a multitude of other touches. Single “un-American Gothic” has already gotten quite a bit of press (Grayowl included) for its nod to West African guitar pop. It turns the melancholic lyrics into a celebration, bopping along to the irresistible beat as the futility in the lyrics gets swept away by the joy in the notes.
It immediately contrasts with the brisk, metallic strum of “El Zonte,” taking its cues from a whole different western tradition. “In these latitudes of pain,” Velan sings as he groans about “the sand” to a spiraling escalation that picks up on the exhaustion that brought him home.
But “Steal You Away,” jumps back to the hit-making mix as Velan undercuts his plotting on the chorus with a slow reggae rhythm and turns the number into a romantic ballad instead. “Ever So Slightly” plays a similar game with a bouncing Brit pop flourish. Velan’s line in the chorus, “This will play out, play out/ Probably as it should,” just might be the overarching takeaway from an album that so easily tempers its pain and disappointment with accepting, easy-going rhythms.
“Great New Beginnings” is quite the affirmation of this acceptance. “If I’m wrong I’m wrong/ If I’m right, I will never say that I told you,” he croons. “If you ever want to glow, part of you will have to burn,” is just another reminder on the stunning, titular “Glow” as it opts for a less-is-more approach that leaves it all to Velan’s vocals to wind down the album with a song that’s far more willing to step closer to that flame and confront the emotions underneath.
As anyone who’s done some traveling knows, plans are usually the first thing to fall to pieces—and then you’ve just got to learn to roll with it. Glow may be Velan’s first album from home in a long time, but it’s full of that wandering wisdom, taking the hits in stride and constantly looking for the good waiting to come out of any experience. What just might be most impressive is that Velan always manages to find it.
Top Tracks: “un-American Gothic”; “Glow”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*