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Unfurl your sails! Review of ‘Understory’ by The Pop Winds

In Album Reviews, Montréal on March 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

In anticipation of their debut full length release coming later this year on Arbutus Records, here is our take on last year’s highly rated self-released EP ‘Understory’ by The Pop Winds.

The Pop Winds never stray too far from their name. Whereas much of the indie-pop sounds of the last few months have been accurately described as ‘breezy’; on their self-released EP ‘Understory’, The Pop Winds instead blow out a blustery gale of swirling synth pop.


It should be easy enough to say that the source of their windy sound is saxophonist Austin Milne, but The Pop Winds are not that simple. Accompanying Milne is guitarist Devon Welsh and Kyle Bennet on electro-acoustic-synth-manipulations. While Milne does give each song a vital immediacy with his powerful and continuous blaring behind every melody, it is only when this thrust is wrapped up under the medley of skins and blankets provided by Bennet and Welsh that  his brass propulsion becomes part of the greater storm. Bennet actually studies Electro-Acoustics at Concordia University here in Montréal, a program he described to campus newspaper The McGill Daily as being a  “philosophical breakdown of sound from a compositional perspective.” If that all sounds a little convoluted, don’t worry, because their sound isn’t. In fact what the band do best is deliver rousing melodies over billows of ecstatic sound clouds, and that is the core of their appeal. If Bennet is actually dissecting any philosophy on this EP, then it is a joyful and powerful one.

The best examples of this are probably the opener, ‘In Harmony’ and ‘So Far Down’. ‘In Harmony’ opens with the band, singing in harmony, about being ‘in harmony’. Never mind that it is in the past tense, the message is one of jubilation when those lyrics come covered in the candy bar wrapper of Milne’s treated horn. ‘So Far Down’ resembles ‘In Harmony’ in respect to it’s uplifting sound, but it is much more delicate. Classical Piano Keys gently tinkle underneath a Jeff Buckley-like guitar riff and the wail of Milne’s horn, before everything is knitted together under the lattice-work of Bennet’s drums and synths. Delicious sweets.

With a song title like ‘People around you can make you sick’, the Pop Winds show their respect for the often insecure and fragile bonds between people. Their joyful and often epic bluster then, is their way of spreading and sharing elation among their listeners. The descending chord sequence and gleeful synth riff in ‘Elgin Stream’ should hopefully run you down the cold tributaries of isolation and into a warm, fast flowing river of fun and sound, and all of this beneath ‘The Sun’, on ‘a beautiful day’.

The group has only been together since 2009, but, judging by this EP, their debut full length release entitled ‘The Turquoise’ coming in March 2010 on Arbutus Records could be a very warm pretty wind indeed. Check out their myspace page for upcoming shows (24th of March at the Green Room with Grimes!) and a free download of ‘Understory’.

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  1. […] to The Green Room and seeing Pop Winds and Grimes. Steve wrote about both these bands, Pop Winds here and Grimes here, so read up, give a listen and go see some great music. Pop Winds are playing […]

  2. […] 14, 2010 tags: Arbutus Records, the pop winds by steveeldonkerr On their self-released EP ‘Understory’, the Pop Winds gave us a great exhibition of how bright, blustery, and brilliant sonic […]

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