Kissaway Trail - Sleep Mountain

Kissaway Trail - Sleep Mountain

The first of a three-part spotlight on British label Bella Union.

When a band’s influences seem obvious it’s easy to dismiss them as unoriginal or unchallenging. But when a band can take those influences, embrace them and craft them into something their own that comes across as a balanced musical undertaking this is a sign of their true creativity and self awareness. The Danish indie rock quintet The Kissaway Trail are a good example of a band that have embraced their musical influences and turned them into a solid album.

Sleep Mountain is The Kissaway Trail’s 2nd album released on Bella Union, intermingling rich multi-instrumental songs and strong vocal harmonies. From the monumental church bells on the opening track SPD it’s apparent they are fans of anthems. This and other tracks such as Friendly Fire, New Year, Don’t Wake Up & Enemy show why they draw obvious comparisons to the likes of Arcade Fire, Flaming Lips & the Polyphonic Spree while other tracks such as Beat Your Heartbeat are reminicent of early Death Cab for Cutie, especially vocally. Lead singers guitarist Soren B. Coreneliussen & Thomas Fagerlund’s sharing of vocal/ guitar duties (along with Daniel Skjoldmose on guitar/ keyboards & Hase Mydtskov on drums) are one of the albums strong points. While this album is very strong vocally, lyrically it doesn’t challenge or impress as much. The lyrical themes of the album are singular and narrow – loving love or the idea of love is not exactly breaking new ground.

With so many stylistic and vocal arms pulling in different directions, renowned producer Peter Katis manages to reign in the homages and bring focus and direction. The only seemingly disjointed track is the cover of Neil Young’s Philadelphia – beautiful, but somewhat out-of-place and failing to improve on the original.

If you can get past the obvious modern indie pastiche, you will see what this album is at heart: a balanced and solid undertaking with strong vocals and beautiful anthemic songs. If you can’t get past the influences then just continue listening to the Beginning Stages of… and Neon Bible. But you’ll be missing out in the end.

Patrolling The Heights

Patrolling The Heights

Marvins Revolt bears uncanny resemblance to Winnipeg’s kings of sloppy punk-influenced pop – The Paperbacks.   I can’t stop thinking that Doug McLean would really love this album.  But what attracted me to this band is the not-as-contrasting-as-one-might-think references of early REM and Manic Street Preachers before Richey Edwards’ unfortunate disappearance.  Earthy melodies and jangling guitars, presented with honesty and exuberance.  Yelping vocals set against strong guitar melodies and playful rhythms.

There is an infectious and unabated obsession with life that reminds me of the Rheostatics .  Like all these far-flung and unlikely reference points, Marvins Revolt places strong value on personal politics – the experiences of individuals in a world that doesn’t quite meet their standards or expectations.  This album is intensely political, but never preachy – instead choosing to personalize the effects of the global economy and nationalism.

“Make no mistake, because we won’t accept it.”

“We woke up with eyes shut.”

“Nothing we can say sets the whole world free.”

“Take a wild guess what went wrong here.”

Marvins Revolt is a Danish band, relatively unheard here in Canada.  I stumbled onto them through the Play/Rec label while following Greg MacPherson’s trail.  Patrolling The Heights is their third album.  Only question: who was Marvin, and what did he revolt against?

(ps: The louder you turn it up, the better it gets.)

(pps: To the Danes reading this blog and concerned about whats going on at the Copenhagen Climate Conference.  I apologize for our Prime Minister.  He’s a total bummer.)