Sound Advice: Oxbow Lake by Nick Rose
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.
Few things are better suited to the sleepy, sun-soaked air of summer than acoustic folk-pop songs about girls and nature. Toronto singer-songwriter Nick Rose sure knows how to nurture the big ol’ sentimental sap that lurks inside all (okay, most) of us, and Oxbow Lake—released independently and available for purchase through Indiepool—is a sweetly sung and gently played testament to simplicity and wistful reflection. How seasonally appropriate.
All five songs from 2008’s Cloverhill EP were pulled and repackaged with six new ones to make this full-length debut, a perfect marriage of the slow, Whiskeytown pedal steel of “Wintersong” and the driving, instantly likeable Joel Plaskett (and, well, Ryan Adams) roots-rock of “Trenchfoot Blues.” It’s not an unfamiliar formula, and at times Rose’s lyrics lean closer towards caricatures of lovelorn Creek-residing teenagers than genuine sadness, but it’s precisely this whimsy that gives Oxbow Lake its overall unassuming ease. A peek into a more mature side of Rose’s songwriting comes in the last two tracks; “Knock on Wood” sounds more like a hymn for fleeting youth, hope, and life than it does another lament for romantic love lost, and it culminates in a simple-but-soulful guitar solo that wouldn’t sound out of place coming from Jeff Tweedy’s SG; and “Run Tom Longboat,” (the story of the gifted early-1900s Canadian long-distance runner) is a violin-massacring romp and is the album’s closest thing to the genre-bending Motown-rock Rose and his other band, Sweet Thing, have—to the delight of dancing fans citywide—skilfully and charmingly mastered.
History and heartbreak and harmless, straightforward folk-rock—Oxbow Lake adds these defining ingredients to Nick Rose’s already solid singing (the vulnerable warble on title track “Oxbow Lake” is particularly striking) and songwriting base. He’s got hooks for days and these songs take you at once to the big, quiet countryside, an impression so immediate and authentic that, if you find yourself as cottage-less (and all of a sudden bitter about it?) as us, it just might help quell those (new found) summertime city-bound blues.