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Volume Ten, Number Three   May 2005   www.columbiajournal.ca


LOCALCENTRIC:

Sonically Soulful CD's For Your Anxious Player


Mark Bignell

Camille Miller-Canarvan Street  Pop/Rock
 
Camille MillerWith all the fluff that crowds the airwaves as far as rock and roll goes, it may be easy to dismiss something as catchy or accessible as Camille Miller's second album. But to do that would be robbing yourself of an exciting, vibrant, energetic and soulful singer with thoughtful and moving songs. Camille's voice, a delightfully utilized instrument, is the centrepiece of all the songs. Camille shows what she can do in the vocal department, but, doesn't abuse it. From a gentle, reassuring tone on the title track, to the bluesy wail on "Nobody Knows", she really draws you in with her considerable chops.

The material has some welcome variety to it as well. "Get In, Get Out" with its almost Pixies-like charge, "What Are You Waiting For" should be all over the radio. The "wait for it" harmonies just add to one admirable, well-realized pop gem. The last four songs are the album's crowning glory. "Sun Too Long".The way Camille emotes "I can keep a secret, watch it tear me up inside. Tell me why” to the shining crescendo just breaks me up. Camille lets her emotions out, but, she does so in a most welcoming and real way. It isn't mechanical or forced, and the songs are so damned catchy too. Solid, no-nonsense Pop songs that break through the ether of mediocrity that dominates the business.

There's also a personal connection made with the lyrics of a lot of the songs on this album once you get your toes wet. "Tranquilize"-a very Beatlesque rocker with a killer chorus, "Into Close Doors" with its tale of disturbing self-discovery, and "Breakable" are songs a lot of acts would love to be able to commit to audio.
Camille and her musical cohort, Nick Haggar know a thing or two about marrying a chorus, a bridge and a suitable lyric to a song.

The somewhat slick production can make you take the lyrics and the music for granted ,but, once you realize what's in store for you, you'll be mighty pleased at the depth and thoughtfulness of the songs. "Breaking / changing. Cannot let that get you down. Jealous /Craving.Everybody feels this way. Everyone is scared to fail." (Breakable)

There's a commonality to the lyrics and the feel of the music that makes it so affecting and ultimately satisfying. Not too many artists can write such soul-searching lyrics and mix them with such accessible and memorable music.

Thanks for your honesty, guts, and good taste, Camille.

Country Joe

Parlour Steps                   Pop/ Rock

Funny how some listeners are scared off by songs that reveal a person's more intellectual side.
The Kinks and XTC had a problem with that, but, along with their strong melodies, sense of humour, unmatched imagination, and the ability to still rock when they wanted to, they remain two of my all-time favorite acts.

Parlour Steps, whether they'll admit to it or not, have the same sort of pedigree. This makes them one of my favourite local bands. This is just a 2 song EP ,but, what I hear here makes me anxious for their third full length.

The chorus on "Libertine Takes a Wife" is the result of letting one's imagination and invention run free: "As we’re traveling fast, you can see our hearts are beating slow, oh so slow. Fading in our romance,eating up the scenery, the rest of this human, show." There's also a most hypnotic guitar signature wrapped around it, and the solid backing of bass and dynamic drumming (and what drumming it is. Take a bow, Rob) just make it stand apart from the competition even more so. The second cut: "GangWay" with it's well-placed hooks, gives the impression the author is questioning what's going on around him with the people and what they do to their surroundings.

Trying to stay composed and sane, but, later, being scared by it. "Are there any wilds anymore? As the indoors are eating the outdoors. Someone is counting all of our enemies...There's no place you can dissapear into...Your public space is dying...communities need reviving..."
The cheerful "Whoo-hoo-hoo!!" near the end, with the intense guitar barrage in full attack, by Caleb (lead singer and main songwriter) gives the song some levity, even though it is quite hypnotic and lingering to start with. Lead guitarist, Reeze, adds some complimentary guitar riffs and chimes that are finely suited to the muse.

Parlour Steps succeed in supplying pleasing ear and brain candy in a fierce
and daunting juggling act. Step right up, folks!
 

Chet "Kau'ai"                                 Alternative Roots/ Pop

This is the second album from Victoria's Chet. Right from the opening track track, "Growing Old Gracefully", Ryan Beattie demonstrates his knack of taking a rather spare and moody song and building on it, till it reaches its rather lofty destination. He also shows no fear in letting his voice shoot up to the stratosphere at the drop of a hat.

The opening track and "Moving back To Cold Bay" are early hints. Floating cynbals, chiming guitars and some off-kilter cello playing from Hank Pine, as well as Beattie's unabashed vocal flights give this album it's uniqueness. The tunes may tend to be quite dour at first, but, your patience will pay off. As you'll notice, this band knows how to pace itself. I can hear echos of Jeff Buckley and maybe a slight Chris Issak influence in the vocals. But that doesn't mean Beattie isn't his own person and that Chet is a mere sound-alike band. There's a fair bit of variation on this album too, with the jazzy "The Flattering Soul" and the lyrical tease of "Fog City". He tends to keep you hanging as you read the lyric sheet, waiting for him to complete the sentence satrting with "the diffuse light"....you get the feeling Beattie's assuring you: "It'll come. Be patient. I will complete that thought." This is definitely an album that says:  take some time away from your hectic life and check yourself and the people around you. Love your uniqueness.Don't be afraid of it. Lyrics like "A reckless song is a broken hull that will sink the ship and all it carries with it" are an indirect nod to this very valid observation. The lyrics are not necessarily meant to be depressing.

There are ways of communicating an idea that you can put your own personal spin on. That's the beauty of music. One fellow Chet fan wrote: "I plan on holding Victoria hostage until more people see Chet play live and shell out bucks for his CD". I  concur with his passion for the music. Once you get a feel for Chet and the real music that's out there, you'll never go back. Long live the indie artist.
 
Happy Listening!

Mark Bignell is an advocate for local/independently made music.
His radio bandcouver show is now heard from 9-10:30pm, every Friday
on CFRO (Co-op radio) 102.7 FM.

Visit and e-mail him from his website for more amazing musical discoveries
at www.bandcouver.com




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