Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
The landscapes of Ontario have long influenced the songs of Tony Dekker and his band, Great Lake Swimmers. Lost Channels, out today on Nettwerk, continues the Swimmers’ folk-rock encapsulation of the best parts of nature’s quiet contemplation, and gives us their greatest effort yet at building a real, start-to-finish album of refined instant classics that is surely emblematic of their continued growth and longevity.
As is typical of a Great Lake Swimmers album, lots of guests make their way into the studio(s) for this one. Joining the sessions are Erin Aurich of A Northern Chorus, Paul Aucoin of Hylozoists, as well as a couple of reprises: Serena Ryder harnesses her throaty radio caterwaul to provide a subtle, even unrecognizable harmony on “Everything Is Moving So Fast,” and Bob Egan, of Blue Rodeo via Oh Susanna via Wilco fame uses his world-famous pedal steel to best effect on the very country (and very catchy) “She Comes to Me In Dreams.” A recurring comparison creeps up on parts of Lost Channels; first single (and currently the best song you’ll hear every day on CBC3) “Pulling on a Line,” and the surprisingly unpretentious, what-does-it-all-mean musing of the simply strummed album highlight “Still” shimmer like Scot-folk-poppers Travis, before Travis made four of the same album and even they lost every ounce of interest in themselves.
The peace and stillness of the great outdoors isn’t Dekker’s only muse; “Concrete Heart” could be, if not a contender, at least an addition to the future master list of songs about Toronto. Originally commissioned for last year’s SoundAxis/Music Gallery project, Concrete Toronto (named after, and created in response to, the book), Dekker’s bittersweet dirge song vocalizes the love/hate relationship one can experience with this city, its grandeur sometimes also being its buzzkill (“I felt like the world’s tallest self-supporting tower”/”These are the bricks that shattered my heart”). The love-letter-turned-lament. Oh, Toronto. He hardly knew you.
(Bonus perfectly poetic points are awarded for the fact that Lost Channels was recorded not only in studios in Toronto and London, but within the magical acoustics of churches and castles on and around the album-inspiring Thousand Islands. Music: fun since forever.)