Release Date: Feb 26, 2013
Record label: Boompa! Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
A self-described lover of all things Ray Davies, Canadian singer/songwriter Mark Andrew Hamilton, the ringleader behind Woodpigeon, gets his Kinks by channeling Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)-era Davies into a river carved out by enigmatic indie/retro pop acts bands like Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, and the Essex Green. Thumbtacks and Glue, the group's fourth album, sticks to the homespun, lo-fi patina that imbued previous outings but adds layer upon layer of backing vocals and oddball instrumentation to the proceedings, resulting in a sort of ruggedly ornate set of basement chamber pop songs that should please fans of early Sufjan Stevens. Highly personal, heavily detailed, and brimming with wounded optimism, songs like "Hermit," with its warm, Salvation Army brass band; the determined refrain of "I'm still Alive"; the euphoric, choral ending to the propulsive full-band rocker "Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard," and the chilly yet affecting opener "The Saddest Music in the World," the latter of which, along with a handful of other selections, finds Hamilton double-tracking his vocals, giving the proceedings a certain wistful Elliott Smith vibe that never feels exploitative or narcissistic; rather they drift on into the pub like an old friend, then disappear back into the snowy night from whence they came with little fanfare.
Calgary's Woodpigeon (aka Mark Andrew Hamilton and friends) is one of those acts that have long shown great promise but never quite hit the mark we hoped for. On Thumbtacks And Glue, though, Hamilton may finally gain an audience beyond the indie folk ghetto. Embracing a wide palette of sounds helps, but beyond the occasional crunchy guitar or unexpected synth, it's the arrangements that make this album work.
There’s something to be said for Woodpidgeon’s latest release, Thumbtacks And Glue. The Calgary, Alberta collective, largely the project of singer-songwriter Mark Andrew Hamilton, has the ‘orchestral indie folk-pop’ genre on lock: Hamilton’s melodies are made up, in consequential order, of cues taken from Simon and Garfunkel, Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear, and The Decembrists. The album sports the right song titles: a European city name, a run-on sentence, “(Insert Animal Here) Song,” and a song called Hermit.
It has become quite common these days for music to yearn for the recording schedules of the ‘60s and ‘70s, when many bands released one LP a year, or sometimes even more. It should not be forgotten, however, that most artists of that era were only able to meet such punishing timetables by packing albums with covers and filler; a good reason why it was decades before the album became a respected and creatively valuable format. Two or three year album cycles came about for a reason, and those bands which continue to release huge reams of material year-on-year simply cannot hope to maintain any semblance of consistency.
A minute into Thumbtacks + Glue’s opening track “The Saddest Music in the World”, Woodpigeon ringleader Mark Andrew Hamilton croons, “Oh you, just stop listening.” It’s a brash exclamation to put on the table for the listener, and it juxtaposes sharply with the song’s Fleet Foxes-influenced pastoral instrumentation. Even appreciating the irony, there’s a problem when such a self-deprecating statement isn’t backed up by quality tunes. Unfortunately, at some point through the Alberta octet’s fourth full-length, you’ll find yourself wanting to heed Hamilton’s command.
A collection of strong emotions, gently expressed. Jude Clarke 2013 When asked about the name of his often-solo, often-collaborative project, Canadian Mark Andrew Hamilton once explained that Woodpigeon was a word he loved because it looks like a rollercoaster when written by hand. On fourth album proper, Thumbtacks and Glue, as on much of his band’s output since 2006 though, Hamilton’s music provides a much softer thrill than those usually found at a fairground.
The tender blend of lo-fi folk and baroque pop Woodpigeon proffer is succour for the soul, buoyant joy with a bittersweet sting. Piloting the Calgary collective since 2005, the prolific Mark Hamilton, or “Mark Andrew of the Hamiltons” as he styles himself, is an inventive but instinctively diarising songwriter, conjuring an adept orchestral intimacy with sweeping songs that span sanguinity and sorrow. Thumbtacks and Glue opens in expansive but sombre mood with ‘The Saddest Music in the World’ – according to Hamilton, “those songs we sing that don’t get heard”.