Thursday, December 18, 2008

Records We Missed:: Sunparlour Players Hymns for the Happy

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It’s getting close to the end of the year, most of the year-end lists are up (I’m not sure if you noticed, but 95% of them included the exact same bands), and the fresh content is grinding to a halt. We could fill out the days by posting our favorite shows, but I’m sure you are sick to death from bloggers telling you what you missed out on this year. So, in some flip the script type she-ite, we are going to point out a band we missed … in ’06, ’07 and for most of ’08.

It’s virtually impossible to review every terrific record that is made, even when you only focus on Canadian content, but I am not sure if any band fits more into my "sound" than Toronto’s The Sunparlour Players. That’s why it’s so shocking (to me I mean) that I’ve never bothered listening. To be fair, Hymns for the Happy is a record I’d always meant to check out, but never got around to picking up. I was going to see them open up for Ruth Minnikin at HPX and pick up a copy, but was exhausted and opted to sleep on my couch. I was going to include them on the Ontario edition of the herohill mixtape – thanks to countless recommendations from London and Ottawa – and forgot to email the band.

Long story short: I’m sorry Sunparlour Players. You deserve better.

Luckily, the new version of the record was tucked in the bottom of a package we got and I was forced to give the band a long overdue listen. Without question, Hymns for the Happy is as good a record as I’ve heard all year. The trio – led by front man Andrew Penner’s soulful growl – is equal parts hillbilly punk, soul, gospel, blues, and folk. There are so many ways to start talking about the Sunparlour boys... Penner’s upbringing on a Mennonite tomato farm, his part time vocation (shoe shine man) or the fact they dress like religious door to door preachers, but at the end of the day it’s about the music and trying to segue into some forced metaphor only takes away from the power of this record.

They can crank up the energy on stomp heavy tracks like John Had Bell and a Whistle and Dyin’ Today, and change pace immediately to deliver beautiful, touching ballads like Pacifist’s Anthem and Robber's Lullabye. They took the time to add strings and choral arrangements to complete the songs, but stayed true to their sound by keeping the rough edges in tact. They beefed up the sound and tried to recreate the energy and emotion of their legendary live show (apparently they reworked my favorite track, If The Creeks Don't Rise to mirror the way it’s played live).

Basically, it’s way too late to honestly try to give any critical insight on this record. If Hymns for the Happy moved me enough to talk about 18 months after the original songs surfaced, it’s obvious I’m a huge fan. And if you give the Toronto band a listen, you’ll be won over just like I was.

Posted at 8:30 AM by ack :: 2 comments

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At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Paul did sayeth:

One of my favourite albums in a while. These guys are also one of the greatest bands to see live...not to mention generally nice people.

 

At 12:41 AM, Blogger The R.O.B. did sayeth:

I'll second that... glad you guys jumped on board. I saw them not so long ago and, they mentioned something about a new album next year... and I'm sure I've heard (live) about a half dozen songs and they are as good, if not better, than the ones on Hymns...

don't sleep...

 

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