Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
Review of Miracle Fortress’ Was I The Wave?
Andre GueretteI have a confession to make; I lied to you. Or more accurately, I misled you. When I wrote up Miracle Fortress’ performance at Canadian Musicfest last month, I made it out that I was as in the dark about what Graham Van Pelt had in store for album number two as most everyone else, and that my insights were based entirely on the show. This was not true. In fact, I’d gotten advanced a copy of Was I The Wave? a week or so earlier but had to keep mum about it as word of its existence was still under wraps. I was thankful for the heads up, though, because otherwise my writeup of the two-man, laser-lit rave-down may well have amounted to, “well that was different”.
After all, Miracle Fortress’ debut Five Roses was an unexpected ’60s-via-’00s classic pop jewel that came out of nowhere to end up on the 2007 Polaris Music Prize short list despite being released barely a week before the eligibility period ended. Pretty high expectations are sure to follow a debut like that, so maybe it’s no surprise that rather than rush into a follow-up, Van Pelt turned his attentions to his other band Think About Life and let ideas for Miracle Fortress percolate for a few years.
It’s not unreasonable to call Was I The Wave? a sequel to Five Roses if it’s meant in the sense of a a part two picking up not where the original left off, bu twenty years into the future. Which in this case would bring things smack dab into the ’80s, and indeed Wave is unabashed in planting its stylistic flag in that most distinctive-sounding of decades. A delicious New Wave-y, synth-pop iciness pervades much of the record, both in the writing and arrangements of the songs and the textures used to render them. Danceable yet not at all disco, at points it’s reminiscent of the period where Joy Division transitioned into New Order and at others, it reminds me how proud I am of the “Depeche Shop Boys” reference I made in the live review. It’s all a bit alien at first, but with enough familiar touchstones to allow you to keep up.
About midway through – actually, precisely with “Spectre” – said iciness begins to thaw and some of the Five Roses warmth begins to shine through. The melodies become more buoyant, less guarded, and the album’s tonal balance begins tilting towards the human. But it’s the record’s ability to balance the synthetic and the organic – its cyborg nature, if you will – that makes it so exceptional. By the end of its not-quite 40 minute running time, it’s taken you back to the same magical pop heights as Five Roses but taken a completely different route to get there. Turns out all you needed was to trust Van Pelt to guide you.
Was I The Wave? is out now in Canada and will be out May 17 in the US. Exclaim has made Miracle Fortress their cover story this month, and have more talk time with Van Pelt in another shorter piece. The Montreal Gazette also has a feature piece. Miracle Fortress’ extensive touring itinerary takes them across Canada in the company of Shad through May, and then come June it’s eastern North America with Junior Boys, a tour with starts June 9 in Toronto at The Phoenix.
Baeble Music is streaming video of a complete Rural Alberta Advantage performance from The Phoenix (in Austin) from SXSW and has a video interview chaser for good measure. The band are at The Phoenix (in Toronto) this Friday night.
This month’s Exclaim timeline feature follows the long and storied career of Sloan, which will soon include the May 10 release of The Double Cross, a May 14 in-store at Sonic Boom and – just announced – an extensive North American tour that includes their first non-festival/event Toronto show in ages, a June 22 date at The Mod Club. Either they’re grossly underestimating their draw (or I’m overestimating) or they want to create some serious demand for tickets.
Also just announced – Yuck will warm up for their show at The Phoenix on May 1 with an in-store at Sonic Boom that afternoon at 5PM. Admission free, canned food donations encouraged.
MP3: Yuck – “Get Away”
Their May 18 show at The Phoenix sold out pretty much immediately, Death Cab For Cutie have put together a Summer tour more in scale with their success – they’ll be at The Molson Amphitheatre on July 29 and accompanying them will be Frightened Rabbit. Death Cab’s new record Codes & Keys arrives May 31 and another song from it is streaming over at Soundcloud.