Words by Brian Salvatore
Royal Canoe is a band from Winnipeg, so MuchMusic [the Canadian version of MTV] might have been their gateway into catholic listening, but they, too, must thank MTV for breaking the shackles of ghettoizing pop music. Listening to Extended Play for the first time, I hear the influence of pure pop, hip-hop, indie rock, the Smiths, Prince, Beck and the world-music infused pop of Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. The music is bursting forth with ideas, and while not all of those ideas work as well as others, this is an admirably diverse record.
An easy comparison for much of this would be Islands, a fellow band from Canada that mixes similar influences but has a darker edge than Royal Canoe. There is a palpable joy coming off this record, and the infectiousness of the music is propelled forward by that joy. Opening cut “Hold on to the Metal” features lots of percussion, both real and synthetic, as well as reverb-drenched guitars and bouncy bass. There is the slightest hint of emo seeping through the vocals and, believe it or not, I mean that as a compliment; there is an urgency and earnestness in the delivery that is so often eschewed for a droll attitude.
As the EP moves forward, both “Bathtubs” and “Bloodrush” continue the theme started on the first track, but continue to add to the stack of sounds. “Bathtubs” features bluesy piano, church bells and synth orchestra hits, with the bass becoming the driving instrument before the band really lets their hip-hop influence shine through. Both of these tracks feature an affected male voice, taken down an octave creating a secondary hook that is far funkier than anything that precedes it. The hip-hop influence is felt strongest on “Bloodrush,” with its looped backdrop and falsetto vocals (paired again with that low, guttural voice), before bringing back in the high-register guitar for a familiar respite.
The short EP ends with “Caught in a Loop,” the most straightforward track on the record. This track is reminiscent of Vampire Weekend, a comparison I’m sure Royal Canoe gets a lot. It is the track that, personally, does the least for me, but ends the record on a mellow and not unpleasant note. What struck me the most on this record was the dedication to pushing their sound forward to new and interesting places, and that simply wasn’t the case with the final track. With that said, Extended Play as a whole is a very successful release, and one that has me waiting for their next long play, which hopefully will continue the tradition of never being satisfied with sounding the same.
© February 21, 2012
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