Release Date: Mar 31, 2009
Record label: Nettwerk
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Pop, Folk
Tony Dekker's songs have a beautiful elegance to them, something found from beginning to end on Lost Channels, his Great Lake Swimmers' fourth album. In a voice so fragile a strong breeze might overpower it, he offers sober ruminations on loneliness, life, love, longing, and artfully infuses each song with just the right amount of banjo, light drumming, acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies (often courtesy of the stellar Julie Fader). [rssbreak] Recorded in various locations in and around the Thousand Islands, the album's first half is (relatively) peppy, featuring standouts like Pulling On A Line, which has a great mandolin-driven chorus, and Concrete Heart, an homage to Toronto.
Toronto's Great Lake Swimmers have been quietly honing their signature wet and lonesome, echo-laden brand of mellow folk-pop since 2005, while like-minded bands such as Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and Shearwater get all of the press. On their fourth album, Tony Dekker and his revolving cast of co-conspirators walk a little taller than on previous releases, employing a larger, more band-oriented sound that lovingly elevates (and amplifies) Dekker's simple, refined melodies into something both peaceful and majestic. Recorded in castles, churches, and community centers in and around the Saint Lawrence River's Thousand Islands, which straddle the U.
Many a moment at rock club, record store, dive bar, and web forum has been wasted arguing over what the word "indie" means any more, or ever meant-- whether it refers to a style, an ethic, a condition of artistic and financial freedom, or some combination of these factors (and others). Be that as it may, it seems fair to suggest that Lost Channels, the fourth full-length from Toronto-based Tony Dekker's Great Lake Swimmers project, sounds less "indie" than any previous Swimmers record. There's a degree of polish to the 12 tracks here that we haven't heard before from Dekker, though this feels less like the product of any meddling on the part of label Nettwerk-- a company that has worked with Canadian megastars Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan, not to mention Coldplay-- than a natural progression for a one-time solo endeavor that has attracted an orbit of like-minded co-conspirators over the years.
For the better part of three albums, Great Lake Swimmers frontman Tony Dekkar has build a musical world of ghostly isolation. Hell, he recorded the band's debut record in an old silo. His voice is airy and quivering on its own, but Dekkar still soaks it in reverb whenever he can. And though his folk songs tend to trudge along, slow and threadbare, he never loses the listener.
I shall open with a candid admission. Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers is the only band in my recollection that has literally put me to sleep in a live setting. Usually when someone says that an artist “puts them to sleep”, it’s a snarky euphemism meant to emphasize the perceived soft-rock leanings of said artist. But they rarely mean that said artist’s music has actually induced them to lose consciousness.
Last time we checked in with Great Lake Swimmers, their third album, Ongiara, widened the instrumental palate they used to paint their pictures, even as the pictures remained largely the same— low-tempo, sad-sack acoustic tunes which understatedly located metaphysical truths in the mundane. Their new album, Lost Channels, confidently continues the more tentative steps they’ve made in their slow trajectory from the stark cold chill of their debut, Great Lake Swimmers, into the warmer and richer climes of their current work. This trajectory can be likened to that of an actual Great Lake swimmer.