Fredrick Squire is one of my favourite songwriters. I didn’t know Squire in his Shotgun & Jaybird days though, my introduction came when he was the, to me, unknown third party in two of my favourite artists’ new project Daniel, Fred, & Julie. His trembling, tender voice, the foundation of the trio’s self-titled (and only record), particularly grabbed hold of me in the stunning track “Runner.” I quickly listened to the other projects he was involved in and absorbed every inch of the solo records he would release in 2010 (March 12) and 2011 (Frederick Squire Sings Shenandoah and Other Popular Hits). A quiet and unassuming songwriter who writes about his life and will make you wonder about your own.
Spooky Action at a Distance is Squire’s first release in a long (well, for me anyways) five years. He now lives a quiet life with his family in Copper Cliff, a suburb of Sudbury, where he balances the roles of husband (to the equally fabulous Kate Maki), Dad, and a mechanical engineering student. Most of the record’s nine songs were written 10 years ago but some have been inspired by more recent events. Altogether Spooky Action at a Distance captures a decade of Squire’s life and how goodness will always come to those who let it.
For the Canrock connoisseur, you’ll recognize “Spill Your Lungs” and “Blue” from Julie Doiron’s 2009 record I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day. Squire’s versions though are softer and slower, far removed from the feelings that drove him to write these songs. In “Blue,” for example, he whispers, “I decided long ago to never to laugh again” but now in the way it has been framed it sounds absurd, a melodramatic declaration from a young man. “Sweetest May” has also made the rounds as a pop-rock track performed by Squire and Doiron’s band Calm Down It’s Monday but again, here we hear a gentler version, a now tender ballad.
In the standout “Book of Love” (not a Magnetic Fields cover), Squire describes himself stumbling through relationships and admits, “I make mistakes sometimes, I often don’t get it right.” In “Bike Thief,” we hear again about the complexities of his relationships and he sings, “you locked our bikes together and I thought it was a good idea.” But on the other half of the record, we hear from a different Squire; a happier and more settled person. “Switch the Engineer” sounds like the light that took Squire from his darkness being switched on and “This Place” is like a vignette of his blissful home life – “this is a very good place to be,” Squire exclaims, his positivity catching.
Spooky Action at a Distance is a marvellous collection of songs from the continually brilliant mind of Frederick Squire. Long may he run.
Top Tracks: “Book of Love”; “Switch the Engineer”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*