The Wooden Sky ::: photo by Brittney Bush Bollay
Two talented Canadian alt-country bands have recently released appetizer EPs destined to tame our growling stomachs until the release of their in-progress full lengths. Toronto’s The Wooden Sky offers five songs under the title City of Light, whereas Victorian newcomers Hawk and Steel have released a four-track effort titled Drawings.
CITY OF LIGHT
On City of Light, The Wooden Sky showcases their versatility, dancing through genres while never losing their signature lushness. The downtempo doo-wop of “Take Me Out” two-steps into the straight-up country of, err, “Go Straight.” The sort-of title track, “City of Light / Dancing At My Window (Reprise)” is a rich, shivering Americana sing-along that reminds me of Times Square on a windy 3 a.m. and gives me goosebumps.
Lyrically, they remain where they excel: richly detailed songs of the down-and-out, their desperation infused with a stunning beauty. “So what if trouble finds us anyway / It’s always following me around / Now even sunny days don’t feel the same / And those blue skies just get me down,” vocalist Gavin Gardiner shrugs over the shuffling beat of “Lonely People (Ain’t Got Much These Days),” just before a levitating swell of strings and guitars that offsets the gravity of the lyrical mood. It’s a shining kind of sadness in the city of light.
Hawk and Steel’s Drawings is a straightforward alt-country recording with less complexity than City of Light but plenty of ambition and a big, giant heart.
Drawings boldly opens with the stark epic “No Country Blues,” a six-minute tale of child soldier Omar Khadr, steeped in hopelessness and soulful vocals. “Foolish” is also ambitious in length, at 5:39, but with a personal, instead of political, narrative, and powerful Ryan Adams-y guitars. Completing the EP are “Believe Nothing/Something,” a Surprise Symphony half-and-half of quiet folk and scrawly, exploding electric guitars, and forlorn lost-love song “Samantha.”
Drawings often has a stripped-down, almost unplugged sort of feel, sometimes sketchbooky like its name. It’s intimate, sometimes a little tentative, but a nice taste of a new band that has been ambitious in quickly releasing material. ____
City of Light can be downloaded from the iTunes store.
Drawings is available from Hawk and Steel’s Bandcamp.