Strand of Oaks
The other evening I was enjoying a refreshing highball on the porch, surrounded by late July humidity, sitting in complete silence. I realized I needed some music to help celebrate the end of a long day but was unsure of who to choose. Scrolling through page after page of my go-to, bandcamp.com, nothing was looking appealing to satisfy the moment. That is until I noticed Strands of Oaks; for whatever reason indie folk bands that add reference to trees in their name usually offer up something of substance.
I clicked, I listened and sipped my apothecary beverage, and decided to settle. I was rolling onto my third glass at this point and thought "Well, this'll do. I have work in the morning".
The opening track of Dark Shore is a hollow, nightly ballad entitled "Diamond Drill", Timothy Showalter's vocals are damp with delay which mimics the empty echo of a quiet night. The album floats through stripped down folk songs and "My Morning Jacket"-esque tunes while still employing minimalistic techniques.
After a couple spins I picked a handful of favorites. "Diamond Drill", "Maureen's", "Trap Door" and "Little Wishes" really stood out to me for melody and lyrics. Showalter's vocals also carry an interesting character. His throaty, casual singing style suits the flow of the music and melodies and reminds me of Jim James from My Morning Jacket. I dig it.
At some points during my listen I felt that the music was straying too much from any form, I'm all for experimenting but some effects just felt out of place to me.
Although I can't say I was sucked in by the whole record, I did enjoy most of the tracks on it. It was an enjoyable listen and a good find.
There's something astounding about Aidan Knight. I find it to be a complex mixture of his ability to pick the perfect chord progression, his impeccable phrasing, his conversational lyrical style, and his perfect arranging ear. The company he keeps also helps; a handful of incredibly talented musicians that bring his once modest acoustic songs to fruition. Versicolour was the first full length, full band album I'd heard from Aidan. I remember admiring his early EP's immediately after the first time I had heard them, coincidentally on the way to his house in Victoria, BC.
Versicolour is a beautiful blend of instruments and voices. Throughout, everyone involved exhibits top tier talent, from Knights guitar playing and tone choice, the flugalhorn playing of Julia Wakal, and the choir of heavenly harmonies. Wakals flugalhorn solo in "Fighting Against Your Lungs" is nothing short of first class. I'm extremely impressed by the choices of tone for the keys and Knight's guitar.
I feel that Versicolour was a group collaboration of everyone involved, and adding to this is the exquisite production touch of Jon Anderson. He seems to know exactly what's needed and at what moment. I think Versicolour is what happens when a group of like minded people go into making a record that they know has potential.
Each song has its own personality, differing slightly from the last but keeping in form, like a well rounded family. The dynamic is similar though, each building to a crescendo and crashing to a finish. The most energetic track is the constantly building "Knitting Something Nice For You", beginning with a finger picked guitar and Knights smooth voice, gaining momentum with a pounding drum and a choir melody, breaking into a repetitive vocal loop with sampled female harmonies (it's hard to explain).
The final track is "Jasper." An older song of Knights that pays homage to the beautiful Canadian park, and the song he is possibly most recognized for.
Overall, Versicolour is a near perfect collection of eight songs put together by some of Canada's freshest talent. It's a must listen for anyone interested in exploring Canada's budding indie scene.