Kitchener native and one-time resident of Guelph, Rob Dickson found himself amidst a series of changes in his mid-twenties. A move to Whitehorse, marriage and a kid all came in short order following graduation—and his debut album, released in February and coyly named Proof of Our Years, takes stock of that headfirst rush into adulthood.
With support from the Yukon Film and Sound Commission, Dickson’s recording of his heady start splits itself between his southern Ontario roots and his new, northern home. Producer James Bunton (Evening Hymns, The Wooden Sky, Donovan Woods) lent a hand at the Glen Gordon in Toronto, while Jordy Walker (Michael Feuerstack, Kepler) took over in Whitehorse.
For all the milestones Dickson passed in quick succession, Proof of Our Years feels slow in comparison. The languid, melodic strumming of the notes and echoing background on “Bullet From the Den” evoke Barr Brothers at their dreamiest.
Bunton’s percussion mix on “Try Again” livens up the apologetic ballad as Dickson shows off his vocal range as he picks up the pace. “I go to work and sit at a desk all day,” he waxes poetic over the horns on “Driven to Odds,” calm even as he dreams of lakes and being “only us three” before resolutely declaring, “Now I’ve got to clean up this mess I’ve made”—a kind of bravado that suggests for all his rushing, Dickson’s increasingly aware that not all traditional milestones are equal.
“Galveston” makes for a nice, near midway segue away from Dickson’s introspection as he examines how others before him have handled the transition. It’s bleak, but beautifully offset by his voice and a metronomic strumming that keeps moving the story forward as a violin charts the rises and falls of some other stranger’s struggles.
There’s something gripping about “Not Enough,” one of the first truly vulnerable tracks to come out of Dickson’s debut and superbly accented by the second appearance of strings—creating a wrenching, loving anxiety. “Now I don’t know,” Dickson purrs as the strings take hold once again, a reality that for some is all too familiar.
There’s a quick and easy jolt out of it with “Mystery Mission,” an odd position to suddenly introduce a rock number—but it remarkably doesn’t feel out of place as it toys with some pop punk and (hopefully) the lighter side of Dickson’s new life.
Meanwhile eponymous “Proof of Our Years” makes the most of the ten-track analysis, and in its quiet, churning way finds that the good outweighs the bad. And despite being followed by the muted “Forgiveness” and the haunting “Settlement,” that remains the overall sense of an album that’s trying to make sense of a complicated part of life. It’s a reassuring note to sound.
Top Tracks: “Driven to Odds”; “Not Enough”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)