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Last Month's Top Sellers

1. BOB DYLAN - More Blood, More Tracks
2. THE BEATLES - White Album
3. DOUG PAISLEY - Starter Home
4. VARIOUS - Cover Me: Songs Of Eddie Hinton
5. VARIOUS - State Of The Union

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Thursday
Nov182010

STORNOWAY - Beachcomber's Windowsill

This one has been kicking around for a few months and was a big hit with us here, with both staffers and whoever happened to be in the shop inquiring, who is this? For me, it quickly jumped from album of the week to a contender for pick of the year.

What is remarkable about this album is how incongruous it is, however unassuming it may seem at first. The band is led by Brian Briggs, whose soaring voice and songwriting style had my mind reaching back to certain late-'80s indie acoustic acts as reference points. It took a while, but I finally recalled the Trashcan Sinatras, a highly unlikely launching point at this juncture of the indie continuum, combined with songwriting chops comparable to Neil Finn (“Fuel Up”) and a tendency toward unusual instrumentation and textural sound effects. There’s even a bit of early, clangy Velvets in the verses of “Watching Birds.”

Where some contemporary bands slather on the overdubs to the disservice of the song, with Stornoway the majesty of the songs is never lost, even in the midst of their more obtuse sonic layering, thanks to the gift of subtlety. Case in point: “Here Comes the Blackout”, easily one of my tracks of the year, is a two-minute burst of flawless songcraft, dressed up with boing-y guitar and sparkling synths, which, in the final repetitions of the chorus, features the sounds of vegetables being sawed to pieces (not that you’d notice it the first, second, or third time, but that’s exactly the point). “Watching Birds” wraps up with a kazoo solo, while “Fuel Up” gets coloured with dulcimer, and “Zorbing” gets obtuse with Gregorian backing vocals and brass arrangements.

This is an album that rewards the listener more and more over time, with the power of the songs and the sincerity of the performances a welcome antiseptic to a time when the sheer weight of pop music history makes it very difficult to create songs that are both memorable and original without hiding behind bludgeoning production trends. Thoroughly refreshing as it is uplifting.

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