reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
It’s in the nature of a country so geographically vast, so full of sporadically populated space, to separate people. Where there is history, sometimes there are no opportunities, and where there are opportunities, there may lack nostalgia. This is a plot point in Nick Faye and the Deputies’ concept album Stumbling Distance, which outlines a youthful prairie love that survives the tribulations of growing up but ultimately crumbles when one half of the couple moves to the city. The album offers commiseration to the many Canadians who have experienced just this. Sad music has been proven to help the heartbroken, after all.
What is surprising amidst the subject matter of Stumbling Distance is the often joyous instrumentation — the way horns come and go and the twang in Nick Faye’s voice as he sings about cases of beer and trucks (“There’s a Party” is an pure-prairie example). While the genre leans towards country, there is always an alternative kick, a pop affinity for hooks, and a Canadiana passion for telling the stories that sometimes get overwritten by those singing about city life. This is made clear in the frustration for the “West Coast bullshit” on “Ex Pats”. Once again, Nick Faye and the Deputies have created a record bound to resonate.
While the emotions are raw, the production is clean and polished, and the pacing is carefully thought out. Beginning with the instrumental tone-setter that is “Buffalo Dreams”, the album uses tone to evoke mood. “Hold Me Back” is about getting in a fight, and feels grungy compared to the other tracks. The regret that comes in “Sad Eyes” is heavier, slower — fallout. This lower energy comes back again on the album closer — and flash-forward in the narrative — “Buffalo Lounge”, which begins small but builds to be one of the most neatly and complexly layered tracks on the record.
Stumbling Distance is a needed addition to the Canadiana scene, telling stories that both outline the complexities of living in this unique country while always embracing the beauty of the parts that sometimes get swept under the rug.
Top Track: “Buffalo Lounge”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)