Friday, May 18, 2007

Dummy Blog Album of the Week: 'Ongiara' by Great Lake Swimmers

My ceasless complaint with British indie is that it never does anything new – seems to spit, in fact, on the very notion of newness – and yet when a folk album like this comes along, an exquisite retread of timeless styles, I have no complaint. Why? Perhaps because rock is supposed to be rebellious and exciting, and there is nothing in the world less rebellious and exciting than four young white males for whom history ended not with the fall of the Berlin Wall but with London Calling or Entertainment; folk, on the other hand, is supposed to be older and wiser. And Tony Dekker, the Wainfleet, Ontario singer-songwriter behind Great Lake Swimmers, certainly sounds old and wise – like Sam Beam and Will Oldham, he has one of those ninety-year-old-man voices that's as hoarse as a pile of dead leaves.

Only once on Ongiara, on the contemplative Passenger Song, is that voice left unchaperoned with an acoustic guitar; for the rest of the album, Dekker is backed by banjo, drums, double bass, organ, and/or string arrangements by Arcade Fire-collaborator Final Fantasy. The strangely stop-start, wax-wane pace of many of these songs reminds me of Nina Nastasia, with whom Dekker shares a country-esque stoical melancholy; but Dekker, described amusingly as a 'pine-gazer' on Allmusic, is more likely to let songs like Changing Colours and I Became Awake swell, often beautifully, into a proper chorus. And although we've seen everything here before, Dekker does it all exceptionally well. That also includes the lyrics, which are a long way above the folk standard 'Oh, it's winter, look at the crows' or 'Wasn't it nice back then with your lovely hair?'; Your Rocky Spine, for example, is an elegant and sustained metaphorical riff on woman's-body-as-mountain-range over an uptempo banjo melody that could be Seven Swans-era Sufjan Stevens. (Although I don't know whether Backstage With The Modern Dancers is just about a modern dance show or whether it's really about, like, regret.) 2007 has been a huge musical disappointment so far, but I don't mean it as a half-compliment when I say that Great Lake Swimmers' slow, moving third LP may be the best thing I've heard this year.


Out now on Weewerk.


albachtimi said...

What does it mean by "Dummy Blog Album" here??? Is it fake or may be just the definition of something???

media said...

Ongiara.... What is it mean??? Whether is it name of something???