Words by Hannah Fitzpatrick

After the successful release of their previous album “As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide” in 2017 and signing to Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts last year, Vancouver-based indie rockers Said the Whale are back with their sixth LP, Cascadia. Though Canadian magazines like exclaim! and Canadian Beats Media have claimed this record to be one of the most anticipated albums of 2019, it fails to meet its high expectations by using bland vocals, confusing lyrics and cringey instrumentals.

The first song on this record, “Wake Up,” is a promising start. The instrumentals throughout this track are upbeat and groovy, complete with soothing piano chords and a simple yet catchy drum beat. The chorus is what sticks out in this track – a standalone acoustic guitar riff accompanies lead singer Ben Worcester’s vocals, emphasizing the positive message behind lyrics like “Time makes all things fall together / Time brings all things together, oh.” However, Worcester’s voice sounds monotone and uninspired. This, unfortunately, also sets the tone for the mess that is about to come.

The next few tracks – “Love Don’t Ask,” the title track “Cascadia” and “Shame” – are arguably some of the worst songs that a pair of ears could ever listen to. “Love Don’t Ask” tries its best to pass as a cute love song, with lyrics like “A simple life alone with you beside me would be paradise,” but fails miserably. Worcester’s vocals sounds like a cheesy impersonation of Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, while the song’s tacky guitar riffs and out-of-tune piano could easily make someone want to tear their ears off.

The title track, “Cascadia,” is a complete disaster, and can be best described as what John Mayer’s 2001 single “No Such Thing” would sound like if it was played through a washing machine. “Shame” somewhat redeems itself with a more hard rock introduction, complete with a bluesy drum solo. However, the hopes for this track are not met. Though Worcester’s vocals are strong here, showing off his ability to transition from soft to powerful tones, when they are put together with the song’s lyrics and instrumentals, it does not feel like they flow as a cohesive unit.

Despite this LP’s obvious flaws, there are some tracks that do not make the album a total flop. “Old Soul, Young Heart” strips everything down to just a simple but mellow acoustic guitar riff and Worcester’s voice – showing that the group can produce songs that do not sound like they are heavily edited. This, along with its lyrics of a sweet tribute to the band’s friend Dan (“Dan, you’re an old soul / And the songs that you write are beautiful”) adds rawness and emotion to Worcester’s vocals – a huge step up from his dull voice in previous songs. The final song on the album, “Gambier Island Green,” is another stripped-down track – this time, executed as an emotional piano ballad. The lyrics are the star of the show here. Descriptions of the flowing water and abundance of trees on Gambier Island, an island located off the coast of Vancouver, Canada, makes it feel as if someone is standing on the island itself, taking in the views with their own eyes.

Cascadia is, without a doubt, a complicated album. Though there are some songs that feel authentic and fun, others are boring, unimpressive and do not flow together as a cohesive piece. For an LP that was highly praised by Canadian media outlets before its release, there is one lesson that can be learned from the record’s overall experience – don’t believe everything that the media tells you.

Said The Whale
© February 8, 2019


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