New Music Review: Royal Canoe – Today We’re Believers

Royale Canoe - Today We're Believers

Today, I’m a believer.

My estimations are that the talented folks in Royal Canoe have an awful lot of time on their hands during the long Manitoba winters, locked away in basements, writing and recording music for days and months on end. With the amount of layers and depth in this album, they would have had to.

Assuming that my hypothesis is in fact valid, then it’s not much of a surprise that one of the most interesting, ambitious and creative albums I’ve come across in a long time comes out of Winnipeg. Royal Canoe have released 12 tracks on an LP called Today We’re Believers, and it has my vote. My vote for what? Everything, basically. For the same reason I used those words I mentioned a sentence or so ago: ambitious, creative.

The creative sparks as quickly as the album begins with the title track, Today We’re Believers. A solid bass drum thud carries a tumbling synth line, while lead singer Matt Peters croons a sexy, slow disco falsetto that’s echoed by a vocal effect, turning his falsetto into a low bass rumble. In fact, vocal effects in all forms are dispersed throughout this debut effort. Not since Imogen Heap used the vocoder as the sole instrument for her hit Hide and Seek have I heard vocal effects used as liberally and as equally (if not more so) effectively*.

Hold On To the Metal and Bathtubs are two older tracks that can be found on the band’s older 4-track EP Bathtubs. Just because they’ve been pre-released doesn’t dull their shine. These tracks were precursors as to what to expect with this LP, but I was cautiously skeptical the rest of the album would live up to what those tracks had promised. Skepticism be damned. Today We’re Believers lives up, and then some.

Oftentimes, creativity and experimentation can be an artist’s own worst enemy. Oftentimes, these experiments can come across as pretentious and egotistical. The best part about Today We’re Believers is how it walks that fine line of being interesting, experimental and ambitious without crossing into the barren land of pretentiousness. Yes, there are moments of self-indulgence on this record (see Light), but even then the band reels you in with obscure synths and vocal pings and drones. They’ve even managed to produce a radio-friendly track in Exodus of the Year, where acoustic guitar strums pair with electronic drums, electric guitar hums and some violin string runs. Magical, really. The track actually reminds me a lot of something you’d find on an M83 album, but with that Canadiana flair.

I’ve failed to mention the lyrical content on this LP, due in large part to the musical brilliance, but the lyrics play their own special role. Some of my favourite lyric moments are found on Exodus of the Year:

Most of my friends got the fuck out
In the exodus of the year
Now it’s just me and you in dim winterlight
Straining ourselves to hear
Those three stupid words I haven’t said
While calling you out at night

Shaking in the cold oh so gallantly
The advantage of withholding your honesty

There’s that cold, dark, Winnipeg imagery.

Considering the levels of experimentation on this LP, it’s no surprise that even elements of old-school hip hop are found. Track 6 is called Button Fumbla and is no doubt about as close the gents in Royal Canoe get to spitting rhymes to a funky beat. I’m actually pretty impressed with how many words Royal Canoe found to rhyme with ‘tumbler’ (ie. mumbler, humbler, fumbla, rumbler, stumbler, grumbler). Another solid track.

The album takes a short turn for the worse with Show Me Your Eyes, but it’s only “for the worse” when the track is compared to the rest of the album. I’m not certain what it is, but the something about the melody just doesn’t vibe with me on this track. Next.

Birthday keeps the party rolling along with bassline stabs and snare drum punctures, along with some eerie background noises most likely derived from some synth pitch bending. The track preludes what I believe to be both the funkiest and atmospheric tune on the album, Nightcrawlin. At first, all we hear are drums and Peters’ voice. Again, singer Matt Peters falsetto is harmonized with another low octave vocal effect giving off a spooky effect. As the song builds, more and more instruments are introduced. In the bridge, a soothing, reverb-soaked vocal line breaks up the dark mood, but only for a moment. This song gives off so much imagery. By the time it kicks into full gear, I can’t help but picture this song playing in a soundtrack to some sort of uncomfortable, highly suspenseful scene in a show or film. Too bad Breaking Bad is over, I would have pitched this one for a scene or two.

Stemming and If I Had A House round out the album, along with the aforementioned Light. Stemming is a sleek, slow and sexy jam, bringing yet another mood to the musical table. Stemming flows right into Light for another bizarre twist that works well (which is more or less the theme of the album). The final track If I Had A House is among the standouts on the album. Carrying one of the best beats on the album, and a helluva lot of attitude, it’s easily one of my favourites. With the chorus line mockingly repeating “Don’t you think about it, don’t you ever think about it,” I can’t not think about it. The song runs a solid 6 minute and 28 seconds while the final 2.5 minute are a sheer electronic indie jam that I usually have to listen to three or four times to really soak it all in.

And let it be known, I’m listening to and reviewing this album completely sober.

I would fear listening to something like Today We’re Believers while on any kind of mental enhancement or stimulant. It’d probably trip the shit out of me. And that, if you’re not sure, is a compliment in its most sincere form. Listen to this album. It’s easily one of the best of 2013, and I’m not just talking about Canadian releases. It’s so good it inspired me to write a blog post for the first time in nearly 2 months.

Closing out this review with some more lyrical content as found on If I Had A House:

I wore a fire in the pouring rain
Didn’t stop, didn’t drop, didn’t roll with it
I broke a sweat and then I broke it again
Understand – no man’s got a hand in controlling it


*Random Access Memories notwithstanding


~ by DR on October 7, 2013.

One Response to “New Music Review: Royal Canoe – Today We’re Believers”

  1. Not bad at all. they have my attention

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