Articles tagged with Carey Mercer

Swan Lake redeems itself

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Swan Lake‘s 2006 debut, Beast Moans, was so drenched in sludgy fuzz and reverb that it sounded like it could have been made by almost anyone (as opposed to three of Canada’s best songwriters). So it was with some trepidation that I listened to the group’s follow-up, Enemy Mine. Thankfully, this time around, the results are much more satisfactory, as Dan Bejar (Destroyer, the New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade), and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes, Blackout Beach) have opted to strip back some of the layers that made the last album such a messy, confusing listen. The result is a solid collection of songs that allows the talents of the three members to shine through.

Which isn’t to say that Enemy Mine doesn’t have its fair share of atmospherics. The second half of “Battle of a Swan Lake, or, Daniel’s Song” is made up of densely overlapping vocals and swirling distortion that could just as easily been made by a synthesizer as a guitar. Similarly, the outro of “Peace” sounds a bit like Bejar and Mercer are singing entirely different songs.

But on Enemy Mine, such moments are flourishes to compliment the songwriting, rather than the primary focus. For the most part, the album actually sounds like the work a band, rather than a self-indulgent, studio-based experiment. It’s possible to imagine these songs being taken out on tour, something that cannot be said of almost anything on Beast Moans.

Best of all, Enemy Mine actually sounds like the work of the three songwriters listed in the liner notes. “Heartswarms” is a Destroyer-worthy acoustic ballad, sung in a theatrical slur than only Bejar could pull off. The Krug-fronted “Settle on Your Skin” is jittery and upbeat, with a punchy synth line that could have easily been slotted onto the next Wolf Parade album. As for Mercer, he sounds a bit like someone doing a really over-the-top David Bowie impression. (Ever see that episode of Flight of the Conchords in which Bret and Jermaine sing “Bowie’s in Space”? Yeah, kind of like that.)

The album’s highlight comes on the second-to-last track, with Krug’s classically-tinged piano ballad “A Hand at Dusk.” Krug is such a cryptic lyricist that its disarming to hear him singing such an unabashedly romantic lyric as “You still look good to me in that knee-length checkered dress.” The song’s minimalist arrangement sounds different from anything else the band has done, as much of the song is unaccompanied, save for the distant swells of synth and guitar. Some clip-clop percussion joins for the final section of the song’s six-minute runtime, as Mercer’s close-miked vocals enter, placed startlingly high in the mix, and sounding a bit like Major Tom being beamed in from outer space.

mp3: “A Hand at Dusk”

Admittedly, Swan Lake still doesn’t reflect the best work of its three songwriters. But Enemy Mine is worthy addition to the collected works of these prolific Canadian indie icons. Rather than a completists-only side-project, Swan Lake now sounds like a band, and is a must-listen for any fans of its members.

The album is out now via Jagjaguwar.
 
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