Hailing from West Chester, Pennsylvania, part of the greater area of my hometown scene, and one of the local acts I am currently quite stoked about, may I present Can You Canoe. Their self-titled,debut full-length released earlier this year, and offers up an intriguingly eclectic blend of indie rock. Though clearly striving to find a signature sound, they aren't afraid to experiment, and pull it off with style, thanks to a talented compliment of seven band members. With keys, strings, drums, guitars, and vocal harmonies, it would be easy for things to sound overdone. However, Can You Canoe keep a refreshing balance, alternating between densely orchestrated and delicately tempered songs. The album was recorded in limited takes at the band's secluded woodland home where most of the members live together. The home recordings give the album an authentic, unpretentious feel, which makes the music sound friendly. Though technically lo-fi, the production is pristine, allowing performances to truly be appreciated.
The album opens with a sampling of cricket calls recorded live and on location with the rest of the album, and seamlessly transitions into When The Morning Comes, a song with an agreeably upbeat piano refrain that sets things off on just the right tone. Then just when the violin makes you think you've got a little NOLA-style jazz homage going on the bridge introduces some oddly psychedelic-tinged guitar noises, and somehow it all works. And that dear readers is what you can expect for the rest of the album, the pleasantly unexpected. Next up track 3, Hands Of Men, which kicks in hard with some driving bass and drums to set feet tapping and heads nodding. Some finely distorted, countrified guitar solos absolutely make this song, which reminds me of The Snake The Cross The Crown and Titus Andronicus (two of my favorite bands) in the best way possible. Mixing in even more genres, after a misleadingly subtle intro track 5, Unbeliever, builds into gospel-like proportions complete with chorused vocals, though the lyrics lean declaratively atheist like an anti-hymnal.
The only place this album overreaches and fails in my opinion is track 7, Turn The People On. This song is dynamic to the point of being sporadic, and the funky jam band guitars fit awkwardly with the rest of the song. Even the lyrics are a rather overachieving as the title would suggest, and they are clearly the least personal of the album, which is generally ernest and honest. However that small misstep aside, I've found that I can listen to Can You Canoe on repeat for hours as long as I skip track 7 and listen to track 8, The Ride, twice instead to make up for it. Smartly sparse, but far from simple, The Ride is a quality song that allows each sonic element room to breath and play, especially the violin and acoustic guitar. Track 9, My Friends, My Friends, would be my choice for the single. It the kind of song you finish a solid set with and incite the audience to sing along to, memorably rocking, catchy, and beautiful all rolled up into one. Plus, I hold a special place in my heart for track 11, No Lovin', the dirtiest, bluesiest, howling, throw back a shot of whiskey and make ya momma cry kind of song. Though of course, an album like this has to finish with the morning after song, and track 12, We Got It, smooths things out sweet, slow, smooth and pensive.
As always dear readers, I encourage you to check out tunes for yourself and make your own conclusions. This week you're in luck. Can You Canoe is generously allowing you to stream their entire album for free on their website. Go listen! It requires only your oodles of free time and none of your precious money. I promise it'll be well worth your time. If you have as eclectic tastes in music as I do, or appreciate a solid independent band, you will find much to appreciate.