I like to think I’m still far too young to start reminiscing about the music of my youth, but with Gabe Clark’s solo debut album, Memories Gone By, I can’t help but remember the dark, acoustic chords of my late teens.
The Edmonton native grew “up on the edge of the dingy Mill Creek ravine just on the south end” of the city, a bio that paints a pretty vivid picture to match the often portentous quality of Clark’s vocals. High wails combine with whispers, anguished vocals keep pace with slow, pointed strumming—a simplistic overall approach that oozes the influence of indie rock in the early to mid-aughts.
“East of Maine” kicks (or perhaps nudges) the album off with muted vocals, barely audible as Clark muses about winter to a stirring melody. “Birch Bay” is equally captivating as it forces you to listen closely to Clark, to lean in an out as he strums, before he calls “Check, check” and radically rewrites the latter half of the the album.
Indeed, it’s hard to avoid thinking about Dallas Green’s own solo debut, especially on “40 Whist” midway through the album—or any number of hard rockers that turned towards a slower pace as the years went by. But there are also more modern touches in the sound as it drifts in and out of the jauntier folk songs of today, and the odd playing around with interludes, both spoken and unspoken, that belies the evolution of the past decade.
Coastal touches on “Kestrels” are a nice segue into this as it lightens the mood and strikes a more playful pose, while the instrumental “Luke” is as forlorn a modern folk ode as they come, wishfully rising and pain-filled as it falls.
“Mr. Zorzo” straddles both sides of memories go by, skipping and whispering at the same time before slowing itself into silence and picking up with a far starker sound. With a final nod, “In this Ravine” edges Clark forward—more experimental, more bare, and aptly enough, more at home.
Top Tracks: “Luke”; “In this Ravine”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)