Review: Don Vail, “Stand of Tide”

Don Vail - Stand of Tide

Beautifully crafted, guitar driven, danceable Canadian-made tunes featuring fantastic male/female harmonies… a new New Pornographers album? Nope – “Stand of Tide” by Don Vail.

You may not yet be familiar with the name Mitch Bowden but, fans of Canadian Indie Rock will likely have seen him without knowing it. Maybe it was with post-hardcore outfit Chore, or perhaps it was playing shows with Broken Social Scene, or with The Priddle Concern alongside Bill Priddle (of Treble Charger/BSS) or perhaps you are even cooler than me and you’ve been following Don Vail all along, since the 2009 debut.

What began as a solo act some ten years ago, has finally blossomed to a quartet for this new album. Recent additions Matthew Fleming, Victor Malang, and Kori Pop are so much more than gap fillers or hired guns – they raise Mitch on their shoulders like teammates of a championship squad.  Based on this finished creation, that’s exactly how they should feel. Kori Pop in particular is a solid solo artist and performer in her own right. Here, she effortlessly adds a breadth of charm, harmony and melody.

The thirteen multi-layered rock gems on “Stand of Tide” pulsate with energy like someone’s laced your aunt’s trifle with rum and amphetamines.  A perfectly peppy collection of toe-tapping rock-infused pop for your summer.  Exactly what I’ve been looking for.

“On the Wire” is an early stand out. It features a wonderful The Cure-influenced lead chased by a brilliantly euphoric chorus before fading out. Honestly, the fade happens too early if you ask me. I could easily have kept it playing for another minute or two or three.  Perhaps it was an issue with length due to constraints of vinyl. Who knows. Regardless, it is easy enough and worth it, to just hit repeat.

Next is “Basement Therapy,” already the second instrumental on the album.  An odd choice for such a catchy record to attempt gaining momentum sans lyrics. Never fear dear reader, these songs are good enough. It works.  A great track and is finished long before overstaying its welcome.

Without deviating too far from a solid foundation of efficient drums, hazy lead vocals, distorted guitar, keyboards and bass; this group manages to keep every song individualistic and sonically diverse. “If We Both Start Young,” for instance, begins with a solid keyboard melody and features a slightly different vocal delivery than others. Mitch sings with a higher pitch and reminds me of something Avi Buffalo could have done.  “Electric Man & Nowhere Drones: showcases yet another change in Mitch’s chameleon-like vocal styling, here he howls with a fevered pitch like early The Shins masterpieces.

The album concludes with the soaring anthem, “Fireflies.” A sensational, brooding, otherworldly, sonic triumph.  My lexicon of metaphors and similes falls short of how to correctly convey the majestic terrain of this tune. It is simply awesome.

Now, I realize I’ve name dropped more than often in this review.  Imbued with such varied yet familiar tones, I’m finding it difficult to succinctly describe “Stand of Tide.”  Suffice it to say, if you enjoy any of these flagship indie-rock pioneers, you will find Don Vail a welcome addition to your collection.

There’s a couple of opportunities very soon to catch Don Vail live: June 21st in their hometown Dunnvile, ON and June 29th in Hamilton, ON.

Available Formats: CD, Digital and Vinyl

Preview and buy “Stand of Tide” on Bandcamp.

Check out: On The Wire, If We Both Start Young, Electric Man & The Nowhere Drones, Fireflies

A bit of a Renaissance man, Steve Murphy is a singer-songwriter, author, and journalist based out of London, Ontario. An avid vinyl collector and audiophile, his personal collection of albums is wide ranging and in the thousands, including four released from his band Westminster Park.

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