reviewed by Michael Thomas
Montreal’s Fixture Records has always excelled at putting out records of a very particular kind of minimalist guitar-pop, from the wonderfully stoic vocals of Moss Lime to the done-in-a-flash rock of Freelove Fenner. So it’s no surprise that Tessa Smith and Conor Prendergast of Brave Radar—who also run Fixture Records—recorded Lion Head in Freelove Fenner’s studio. Also not surprisingly, it’s solid across the board.
Both Smith and Prendergast, who trade off vocal duties and have mastered the stoic vocal tone akin to their labelmates, know how to make a simple guitar/bass/drum arrangement into something worth sticking around for. Song titles are minimalist, but sometimes give hints as to what to expect from their sound. A song like “New Shades,” for example, is exactly the kind of bright, forward-momentum music that could be the soundtrack to driving around in a convertible while the sun beats down on you.
Brave Radar has you covered no matter what speed you prefer to drive, though. “Earth Control” is in fact a “technofuturistic driving song” with a smooth bassline. Put your foot on the accelerator just a bit more to cruise along with the surfy vibes of “Atmosphere Room.” Have fun at a reasonable pace with “Moves in Time,” a more blatantly jangly little bit of guitar pop.
The slower-paced songs are like something out of a dream. “Castle Mixer” at first sounds like a fusion between the band’s guitar pop and a medieval melody, and Prendergast’s gentle vocals keep the song sailing along. His vocals also play a part in arguably the album’s best song, “Silver Touch,” with its delicate, almost 50s-esque melody.
There’s a sense of mystery in the album’s lyrics; images of melting chalk and underground rays of light sprinkle over the songs to give you another layer to think about as you’re bouncing around in your seat. Brave Radar are smart and sleek, if you’ll allow me to finish off the car metaphor, and will take you anywhere you want to go.
Top Tracks: “Silver Touch”; “Lion Head”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)