Gary's Karkwa Review
It would seem that in the last few years La Belle Province has thrown down the musical gauntlet to the rest of the country and maybe even the alt-rock music scene – a sonic warning to heed their ability. These are bands you should take seriously, very seriously indeed.
For years, acts like The Stills, Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, Stars, Patrick Watson, Plants and Animals and – the band that should have won last year’s Polaris Prize – Malajube, have rolled out of Quebec in a steady stream.
And now here comes Karkwa. From the French word for a quiver of arrows (thank you Wikipedia), this is a band with a lot in its arsenal (see how I cleverly related their name to a character trait).
But to imply they’ve just arrived is inaccurate. Les Chemins De Verre is the fourth effort from a band that creates catchy, instantly likeable songs, but will consistently surprise you. And for me this is easily the best part of listening – like a Christopher Nolan film, you’re never going to know what happens next.
For some, this is a daunting, even scary experience. Certain people need the comfort of blatant chord change and a chorus that rides in with ample warning. So it’s rare that a band can still surprise you with their musical choices but without sacrificing pop sensibilities.
Dave alluded to comparisons with Radiohead and Sigur Ros, and he’s not wrong. You can identify those same textures and layers that have become staples for those bands. But if you listen very carefully, you’ll find that Karkwa are more like musical chameleons. They don’t really sound like any of those bands but more like variations of their style.
Take for instance Marie, Tu Pleurs which will remind you Bon Iver if he had a slightly sunnier disposition. Or maybe you’ll find something akin to the Shins in L’Acouphune, but only sort of. This is the wonder of the album, identifiable tones mixed with genuine surprise. But I’ll concede that this could also be its downfall. With such an eclectic mix of styles and tones, it can be hard to anchor yourself to the album as whole.
However the fact remains, that this is seriously good music, from seriously good musicians and I for one am watching the 401 for the next great export.
Other provinces, be on alert - something wicked this way comes.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010 by Gary from The Polaris Prize Shortlist