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Blue (and gold). Pop Winds’ ‘The Turquoise’

In Album Reviews, Celebrate Your Scene, Montréal on May 14, 2010 at 9:45 am

On their self-released EP ‘Understory’, the Pop Winds gave us a great exhibition of how bright, blustery, and brilliant sonic experimentation can be layered and intertwined into colourful single-length pop songs.  On ‘The Turquoise’, their debut album, released on Arbutus Records, the band displays a more complete and fully realised sound, though some of the urgency (not the vitality) that made ‘Understory’ such a great POP record has been lost in the extended jams.

For anyone coming to this album on the back of the pop-tastic EP ‘Understory’, the first feeling (once they’ve got past the brilliant ‘Met Some New Colours’) they may get is one of slight disappointment. I can sympathise with this view. So much of what made ‘Understory’ a great EP was its uplifting urgency, and this, at first, seems to be largely missing from ‘The Turquoise’. However, once past the first listen, the real quality of this record soon becomes apparent. The band is much tighter; the sonic (‘electro-acoustic’) experimentation is more complete; and the sound fuller. That is not to say that the ‘Pop Winds’ sound has disappeared, just that is much more detailed and filled in; the creases have been ironed out by the colours.

Therefore, in so many ways, this record is a clear step forward.  The aforementioned ‘extended jams’; songs that meander and slowly walk towards a finish, are dramatic and powerful in their own way.  The band’s sound has been developed to such an extent that just listening to all the different elements combine is a pleasure, and the saxophone adds a unique and wholesome finishing sheen to everything (Interestingly, the colour ‘Turquoise’ has always been the colour I’ve most associated with this band, perhaps due to Kyle Bennet’s decision to splatter it over most of his clothes). Nevertheless, these songs suit a long, indecisive listening experience, (though not a passive one; it is far too creative a work for that!), but they do not capture the listener as songs off ‘Understory’ did. Much of this could be down to the band’s rhythms, which are not especially suited to either dancing or jumping along to.

Of course, even the bands poppiest moments on ‘Understory’, such as ‘In Harmony’ and ‘Elgin Stream’, were pop by virtue of sonic emotion rather than rhythm. Perhaps that is why, on the latest record, I feel drawn to ‘Met Some New Colours’ and ‘Feel It’; some lack of control is needed for a song to capture an imagination, either by catalysing abandon on the dance floor or in the soul, and the rise and fall of these two songs mirrors the analogue heart, not the digital computer.  Devon Welsh really loses control.

The song that best unites all these different elements; experimental jamming, sonic emotion and dream-like melodies, is probably the final song on the record, ‘Will be a Dream’. The programming is beautiful; in particular one gentle electronic riff (most evident 1.23 into the track) that weaves in and out of the song’s linear progression like a film soundtrack. The lyrics too, with the repeated refrain ‘I want to….’ (YES, Determination!) pushes the song out of the realm of the psyche-jam and towards vitality. Later on, the video game-alike bleeps so popular nowadays flitter over the chord sequence, before they then make way for a smoothly distorted guitar line to close the song.  By freeing themselves to touch the listener emotionally, the Pop Winds create a whole worthy of their separate parts; beauty, perhaps?

Download ‘The Turquoise’ here to try it out. Then Buy it Here.

You can also catch Pop Winds releasing ‘The Turquoise’ tonight, the 14th of May, along with Blue Hawaii at Loft 206, 3655 St-Laurent, and a host of other dates throughout the summer.

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  1. […] new Pop Winds, ‘The Turquoise’ released on Arbutus, is fantastic. Steve wrote about it here. The new Sean Nicholas Savage is also very very good (and the long-delayed review of his album will […]

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