Mark Andrew Hamilton (the troubled heart of Woodpigeon) doesn’t like to be confined. In the first moments of T R O U B L E, Hamilton says as much in his spacey take on the classic western ballad “Don’t Fence Me In.” Later, the sentiment is repeated in “Whole Body Shakes” when Hamilton sings, “I don’t take kindly to being caged.” Sonically and lyrically,
T R O U B L E is about just that, rejecting tradition or what is deemed safe. It is about breaking free.
Produced by the always imaginative Sandro Perri, T R O U B L E is folky but not a folk record, poppy but not a pop record. It’s an obscure mix of both that lets these genres and warm instrumentation roam. Around almost every bend is a sound you don’t expect to come: boisterous horns (“The Falling Tide”), unrelenting bass (“Sovkino”), the unique voice of folk legend Mary Margaret O’Hara (“The Accident”). Hamilton’s own voice is thin as if haunted by the ghosts – the ending of a relationship amongst other things – that inspired the making of this record. He floats, twists, and turns in between the few cracks his complex soundscape offer.
In the first lyric of “Devastating,” an album standout, it seems likes Hamilton is already barely able to hang on, quivering as he pleads, “Hold your horses.” As the track unfolds so too does a surprisingly playful groove that, given the song’s lyrical content, makes for a stunning combo. Just as “Devastating” breaks free of the titular emotional wreckage, there is a striking divide between the lyrics and instrumentation of “Canada,” the follow track. Hamilton’s critique of “Canada” (one of the album’s best lines is, “look close, it’s really not like they say”) is smart and brutal yet completely disguised by a poppy melody – a charming and fun facade not unlike the one our country presents.
The aforementioned “The Accident” is the standout from the hazier and more woeful second side of T R O U B L E. O’Hara appears in the song’s third verse and has this seemingly all-knowing presence (she actually represents the “The ground personified”) as she sings, “I know you’ll come back around and we’ll go through this again,” for chilling results.
Despite what the album art looks like, the T R O U B L E that fills Mark Andrew Hamilton and the rest of the flock of Woodpigeon, is not restricted to just black or white. It is marked by vivid hues and runs wild.
Top Tracks: “Devastating”; “Canada”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)