M for Montreal steamrolls onward to Friday night! Crack the PBR, because Lakes of Canada is about to deliver… well… exactly what you expect from a bunch of bearded white guys with ukeleles. If that’s your scene, you’re in heaven — but be warned. They may yet deliver more. Lakes of Canada plays the Divan Orange tomorrow night, opened by Mark Berube and Amelia Curran.
With numerous ‘net releases and one LP (2012’s Toll the Bell) to their credit, Lakes of Canada have received a lot of buzz and local radio play in recent months. They have one very important quality for a new group: You can tell exactly what they sound like just from looking at them. Whether this works in Lakes of Canada’s favour is up for debate — especially when you watch frontman Jake Smith laboriously exchange his shoes for moccasins onstage. Yeah, it’s that stuff.
Smith and co. are undeniably talented performers with a keen melodic sense. Smith can capably ape Bon Iver’s soft falsetto or Colin Meloy’s keening wail depending on the song. (The group’s Decemberists link is perhaps notable; Lakes of Canada claim to be taking lyrical inspiration from Canadian literature, including Margaret Atwood.) They’re classically trained, boasting tight playing, cleverly composed counter-melodies and some quirky inspiration — the high-energy “Sons of Gilead”, for example, combines the lofty European neo-folk influence with the gallop of a Sergio Leone soundtrack.
This should add up to more, but Lakes of Canada still seem to be holding back. You don’t have to reach very far for sonic comparisons, and that’s a pity: Fleet Foxes, The Lumineers, Jim Beardmumbles and the Glockenspiel Bowtie, Cardigan Handlestache’s Xylophone Dinglesoft, Brumpbo Tungus’ Organic Free-Range Sleepytime Jambor-Twee. You’ve heard this all before, and either you like it or you don’t. A case could be made that it’s hard to get excited about white rockists clanging harps and ukeleles in the year 2013, no matter how capably played.
But we should give them the benefit; Lakes of Canada are a young band yet, and show flashes of — not just promise, but transcendence — when pried away from the hackneyed signifiers of a locally-sourced flannel band. Witness “Eden”, an acapella one-off featured on their website. A spark of rusty Southern gospel sets this number ablaze, with four-part harmony and melancholy admonitions of devilry that wouldn’t be out of place in a Depression-era Memphis chain gang. Reverence to the style’s African-American roots may or may not assuage claims of cultural appropriation, but it’s a damn catchy tune shot through with goosebump-inducing musical moments. Where did this thing come from, guys? Is this your cheeky but beautiful “Beth/Rest”, a mutant creation never to be repeated, or can we have some more of it? I can’t stop fucking humming it, so I guess Lakes of Canada have infected me. Truly the terrorists have won.
Openers Mark Berube and Amelia Curran are another matter. Berube, as per his blurb, features “spoken word poetry, traditional storytelling and folk rock together,” an encouraging mix, and Amelia Curran is a decade-plus veteran of the singer-songwriter scene with a half-dozen full-length albums to her credit. In fact, as a Juno Award winner, Curran is undoubtedly the decorated veteran of this show, and well worth checking out no matter your feelings on ukeleles and beards. Worth your time!
Friday, November 22, 2013
Divan Orange | 4234 St. Laurent
Doors 8:30 pm | Show 9:00 pm