Release Date: Apr 14, 2015
Record label: File Under: Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
"Come show me something I can't see."The opening line of "Slow Burning," the first song on Kathryn Calder's new record, is an invitation, a dare, a desperate and delicate cry for more. The music shimmers and immerses the listener in an underwater utopia, while Calder's vocals climb in layers up towards the sky. It sets the scene for what's to come: a perfectly produced pop paradise.
For her third solo album, New Pornographers vocalist and keyboardist Kathryn Calder once again steps outside the stylistic framework of the band's smart, grand-scale pop into cooler, more contemplative territory. While Kathryn Calder's thoughtful, evocative indie pop occasionally kicks into high gear on songs like "Take a Little Time" and "My Armour," most of the time this music drifts calmly on clouds of synthesizer patches hovering over a spare landscape of massed voices, distant drums, and single-string guitar patterns. Even when Calder does turn up the tempo, the arrangements are still dominated by placid, ethereal keyboard voices that evoke colorful but chilly plains in early fall, and there are moments when Calder's music could pass for some forgotten New Age album of the '80s.
A late addition to an already crowded cast, Kathryn Calder joined the New Pornographers in 2005 as a fill-in for Neko Case, who at the time rarely toured with the group. At the time Calder seemed like a mismatch for a group defined by outsized presences: She’s not a born star like Case, nor is she an enigma like Dan Bejar, or a pop savant like A.C. Newman.
Despite starting off as a temporary replacement for Neko Case, Kathryn Calder has become something of an unsung spirit of The New Pornographers. She crackles with youth and energy onstage behind her keyboard. Out of all the diverse members of the Canadian supergroup, she might be the one that most embodies the words “power pop,” at least when performing live.
Pretty portents of sorrow fill “Kathryn Calder,” the self-titled album by the singer who is best known as the modest team player supplying harmony vocals in the New Pornographers. Her own albums — this is the third and most transparent — reveal grander structures and a singular perspective ….
With three albums out now under her own name, Kathryn Calder has built up a volume of music strong enough to eclipse her role in the New Pornographers. Are You My Mother (2010) and Bright and Vivid (2011) featured Calder’s sweet voice wrapped in layers of gauzy echo, surrounded by music that combines ambience and moody pop. Lyrically they both sounded upbeat and hopeful, though both dealt with feelings of loss and recovery.
Slow Burning is the name of the first song on Kathryn Calder's downtempo third full-length and a good description of the album as a whole. In a synth pop vein similar to Toronto's Etiquette and Vancouver's Gold & Youth, the New Pornographer singer/multi-instrumentalist (and former Immaculate Machine member) sets her exceptionally pretty vocals to a backdrop of minimal, mostly electronic soundscapes that she co-produced with her husband, Colin Stewart, who operates the popular Hive Creative Labs on Vancouver Island. Calder's melodic knack and introspective lyrics remain on prominent display, but there's a much greater fragility, sparseness and emphasis on nebulous textures here than on the far peppier Polaris Prize-nominated Bright And Vivid from 2011.