So many new albums, so little space and time to include them all – just another month here at Team GDW HQ. Once again, we have plenty of new music to share, and no matter what you think about this recent fourth wave of the pandemic, these past few months have clearly not hindered the creativity of the music community. Any of these recent releases are more than worthy of their own individual spotlight, but with slots filling quickly on our calendar, we’re giving you the condensed version here of four albums that you really should not let pass you by.
E.P. Lepp, “Bats In The Boathouse”
Released on October 1st, this 9-track, 36-minute debut solo album from E.P. Lepp (the moniker of Eric Lepp) offers a pretty interesting mix of laid-back indie-Americana from the Ontario-based co-frontman of both The Lofty Pines and Birds Of Ontario. Recorded and self-produced in his recently created ‘The Hodgepodge Garage Studio,’ Lepp creates fun, yet slightly edgy music; itself with plenty of appeal for those familiar with the likes of Boston Levi, Jay Pollmann and Elliott BROOD. “I began writing songs with Mike McNeil about a year ago … the songs came together very quickly as Mike and I would have a bit of a back and forth with the words,” Lepp shares “Once the words were finished, I would sit down with lyrics and the music just flowed out quickly and naturally.”
For an album that could easily fly below your musical radar, I highly recommend this one, as each and every track here are as close to perfect as they come. Solid production, amazing sound, great tone, pace, instrumentation, and of course, Lepp’s enigmatic presence. This is a diverse (call it wild, even) project that is, quite simply, stunning – offering hints of Pearl Jam one moment (“Red Sky”), Tom Cochrane the next (“Drunken Ambassador”), and even plants thoughts of Dan Mangan’s “Robots” into my head when hearing “1000 Tears.” “The Rope” has a kind of Tom Waits meets country vibe, while “Next To You” switches to a slight reggae-folk experience. Yet amid this diversity, there is cohesion, the album flowing perfectly from beginning to end – this certainly is not Lepp’s first rodeo here. His current single, “Humbled” is a rousing anthem about how we are all only human, and is the highlight of the album. “Even the biggest stars or the richest folks have terrible days,” Lepp adds. “Nothing is forever so we should just be more understanding of each other.” A very impressive debut solo album.
Wolf Willow, “Old Guitars & Shooting Stars”
Having already shared the singles “All I Can Say” and “Does The Sun Know” from this highly anticipated third countrypolitan album, it was not a difficult decision to circle Regina, SK’s Wolf Willow’s release date (October 15) on our calendar. It is no secret that I love the allure of traditional country music and a little western swing, but when mixing in some Tijuana brass and a generous serving of pedal steel, go ahead and point me towards any ‘subscribe’ button. “Old Guitars & Shooting Stars” is quite simply pure escapism at its finest, a wonderful throwback and flashback to simpler, innocent times. Music that is full of the big, lush sounds of horns, strings, and The Garryaires chorus (Lenore, Erica, and Julie from The Garrys), with interplay between the guitar and pedal steel – textures that explore the many sides of a romantic heart – desire, longing, mystery, and loss.
The opening track, “Lovers Lane,” is bursting with energy, and possibly the first opening number on any album I’ve enjoyed this year that has truly stopped me in my tracks, with its super sixties surf rock sounds – I mean, what more could you ask for? Oh, you want some timeless charm too? Okay, check out the soothing romanticism of “My Tears Fell Two By Two” and “In A World Of Our Own” if you are seeking some lovely slow numbers that combine lush instrumentation with vintage flair. What, wait, you want something even more old school? Okay, skip ahead to “Well Have You Heard” for that classic old ‘fade in’ (and hints of Lynn Anderson’s sounds), or “Heaven Didn’t Seem So Far” for some true country two-steppin’ and twang. And, as promised in those previous Wolf Willow features, check out the final installment of the trilogy of mini-movies, as directed by Ava Wild (this time for “In A World Of Our Own”), linked here for both your listening and viewing pleasures. Saskatchewan continues to reign supreme as Canada’s country music hotbed, and this album is a must for any collection.
The Garrys, “Get Thee To A Nunnery”
Having mentioned the words “surf rock” and “The Garryaires” in the Wolf Willow review, it seems perfectly fitting to shift our attention to this phenomenal new album from the SK prairies. The Garrys describe their sounds as “dreamy blood harmony surf rock doom-wop on morphine,” conjuring up images of music not quite for the faint-of-heart, but which happens to be far from the truth. We enjoyed their previous single release (title track) last June, and knew then that this was an album we did not want to miss. Released back on September 24th, their fourth album to date, and with production duties handled by Dallas Good (The Sadies), this stunning collection of tunes does not disappoint.
“Get Thee To A Nunnery” pays homage to The Garrys’ familial roots, telling stories and cultivating moods inspired by their windswept prairie surroundings, the isolation and decay of rural life, generational shifts in worldview and faith, the soft-spoken beauty of small moments and oft-ignored locales, and making sense of nostalgia for times and places that they never really knew. What I shall say is that the ‘surf (force) is strong’ with this talented trio – where vintage twang astounds in both “Ambrosia Salad” and “Devil’s Dip.” But there is so much more to their musical persona if you are willing to delve further. “Bury Me With My Money” finds western sounds crossing paths with indie roots, while both “Sintaluta” and “Fallen Woman” demonstrate their collective harmonies against the backdrop of a badlands soundscape. Call me a radical, but I’m content to welcome the return of The Garryaires when hearing “It’s Over,” those harmonies shining, and leaving this song not at all out of place among those tunes found on the latest Wolf Willow album. It is not everyday you encounter a younger generation of female siblings embracing the vintage charm of surf rock, but believe me, The Garrys are not only an exception to the rule, they are exceptional in their execution and dedication in bringing their vibrant sound to audiences here in the present day.
Jane Mathew, “Such Perfect Lives”
Oman born and Toronto-based singer-songwriter Jane Mathew released her debut album on September 24th, one filled with deeply personal songs that are extraordinary letters she wrote to different people – a collection of tunes a musical response to the increasing inauthenticity seen in every day life amplified through social media. “I started writing these songs so I could vent out my frustrations,” Jane shares. “But at some point, it turned therapeutic for me to be honest with myself about some difficult experiences.” Recorded and produced by Simon Ng, and mastered by Ethereal Mastering, the album both captures and symbolizes the arrival of Jane Mathew and her personal experiences; a journey from busker to professional artist, thanks in part to an impromptu meeting one day with JUNO award winner Bob Wiseman (founding member of Blue Rodeo).
You can’t help but believe that the title, “Such Perfect Lives,” is itself a cynical nod to the recipients of Jane’s letters, with nine tracks allowing her to articulate her angst, her fears, and her rebuttal. Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, on the surface this appears to be a quick listen, but with Jane’s super-soft-spoken delivery, instrumentation, and pacing, you’d be excused for believing it to play out for much longer than that. You’d also be excused for expecting a somber affair, based on Jane’s discontent, yet may be surprised by just how her expressive vocals and unexpected positive energy channeled through the instrumentation disarms such expectations. Her letters offer responses to feelings of loneliness and pain when surrounded by superficial relationships (“No One”), falling out with a toxic friend (“Have Fun”), and the internal battles of attempting to leave an abusive relationship (“Show Pony”); before calling out those who claim to be a positive role model on their social media pages, but are in fact only doing so to be self serving (“Shabby”). Jane also bares her soul to express feelings of guilt in failing a friend during a desperate time of need (“What Fire”), leading perhaps to seeking her own reconciliation: “Follow The Lights is about my relationship with God. I wrote this song at a spiritually low point and I was reflecting on this journey,” she shares. “I was reminded of God’s unconditional grace and how He truly meets where you are, as you are.” An emerging artist with a natural gift in words and in voice.