Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Album review: Great Lake Swimmers-Lost Channels

"I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning", by Bright Eyes. "Heartbreaker", by Ryan Adams. "For Emma, Forever Ago", by Bon Iver. What do all these albums have in common? Well, for me, they're all albums that, over the last few years, have been instrumental in my constant, never ending evolution in musical tastes. These albums helped shape the preferences I employ now when analyzing music. Although there are always exceptions, any time I can find a new album that comes anywhere near these (and some others) in terms of quality and vibe, I'm hooked.

That being said, I'd never heard of Great Lake Swimmers a week ago, which in a way, is a good thing. It's nice not having to climb through piles of hype when getting to the purpose of a bands' existence: its music. It also allows me to look at this album as a stand alone entity, rather then feeling it necessary to compare it to their older material. In this case, I have nothing to compare it to, and no expectations forced upon me due to hype, so I'm able to listen to the music without any bias.

Lost Channels isn't groundbreaking, by any means. It revels in an alt-folk/country vibe that makes you feel right at home. Things kick off with REM-esque opener "Palmistry", which employs beautiful vocal harmonies in the chorus. Next track, "Everything Is Moving So Fast", could have been a Whiskeytown b-side, with male-female vocal harmonies, and lightly fingerpicked acoustic guitars. After that, the album settles into a groove, and in doing so, there are no definite standout tracks, which isn't a bad thing. As each song proves to be just as strong as its predecessor, one track flows seemlessly into the next.

If forced to pick one song to take away from this album, I'd have to go with "Stealing Tomorrow", which is about as simple as it gets. Nothing but a clean, slightly twangy electric guitar and a couple vocal tracks. This song epitomizes what this entire album is about. It's not starting a revolution, but that's not the point. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, the band focuses on emotion and vibe. Although I've only had it around for the last week, I think Lost Channels will be one that will stay in my rotation for a long time.

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