Local folk rockers Fort York crank out country fun on their first full-length LP.
Fort York is the kind of band name you wish you thought up with your friends first. According to Fort York’s Bandcamp page mythology, the group was spawned by roommates living on Toronto’s Brunswick Avenue, who constructed a rehearsal space in their house around the same time they picked up a banjo. Feels Like Then is the group’s first release.
The bottom of the group’s Bandcamp page lists the tags “Fleet Foxes” and “Bon Iver.” The album’s first and title track, “Feels Like Then,” is certainly reminiscent of the latter, with currently-trending Bon Iver-ish songwriting tendencies mixed in with a more mainstream melody. We also liked its layered, madrigal outro. Beyond the inclusion of harmonies, the band’s self-comparison to Fleet Foxes falls a bit short. Fort York are less rustic than their Fleet Foxes predecessors; we found the chord progressions hearken a bit closer to earlier Elliott Smith.
It is obvious Fort York are talented songwriters; they seem to be limiting themselves here by self-locating within the Canadiana alt-rock canon. The folk aspect of the music feels forced at times, although still enjoyable; the second track, “When She Was Dead,” is a nice sentimental country tune similar to Cuff the Duke. But the album’s best elements are in the songs which stray from the genre altogether, such as the sixth track, “Sarah,” featuring a chilling keyboard line from Conor Lavelle. The song is reminiscent of early Elton John, and showcases the group’s songwriting potential. Genre reservations aside, all the songs on the album are entertaining, and we imagine Fort York could be a lot of fun to see live. It was also nice to hear the vocals so forward in the mix; credit here goes to expert mixing and mastering from Peter Hamilton at One Fell Swoop Studios, and Ben Somer at Lacquer Channel Mastering.
A great effort for the group’s first release; we look forward to seeing future releases from Fort York—even if just for their excellent band name.