Friday, January 16, 2009

Reviews:: Quiet Parade Labour Day

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Anyone that’s been around the Halifax music scene for the last few years has probably stumbled upon Trevor Murphy in some form or another. I mean, Sleepless Nights is a rotating collective of some of the best musicians in the city and The Establishment is another stellar outfit, but with his latest musical incarnation – the aptly named Quiet Parade – Trevor shows a much softer, reflective side.

The special thing about this project is that even though this would probably be viewed as Murphy’s journey into a more classic singer/songwriter mode, his songs are bolstered by local talent (including Richard Lann on drums and killer photos, Jeff Pineau on bass, Jason Methot on guitar and Megan Hennigar - vocals/piano) and the sound, while spare, is thickened by interesting textures at just the right times. The end result is a collection of songs that sound more like a conversation with friends than an isolated outpouring.

It’s easy to picture a man sitting eyes close at a piano when you hear the beginning of Exile, but Megan’s backing vocals offer support and reassurance and the lead guitar dances around the melody nicely. Even a confessional like Only Bones, a track about his tennis elbow (but maybe more so about the fragility and fear we all face) starts out as just a simple backbeat and a few guitar notes, but the band slowly adds to the arrangement. It’s only a two and a half minute track, but the flow works perfectly and they never oversaturated the mix. When Quiet Parade reaches the finish line behind the strength of the pseudo-choral harmonies and organ, you kind of wish the song went on for another two or three minutes.

Trevor is comfortable exposing darker emotion and slower sounds, like the Exile and Martin Luther, but never lets the songs become stagnant. Instead of derailing the listen, he fuses in a moment of lightness or optimism (like the horns that accompany the simple idea of salvation on Martin Luther) and as a result, Labour Day simply plays like an intimate look into Murphy’s thoughts instead of painful diary entries. Even at the most emotional points, like when the sadness escapes from the banjo driven The Eight Year Lullabye of Sgt. Tony James - perhaps the most traditional solo affair - they use backing vocals, a spoken word breakdown and some surprising horns to completely contrast the solitude of the vocals.

Many songwriters could benefit from a little of Murphy’s brevity. He is incredibly successful introducing sketches instead of fully crafted stories. By keeping the songs spontaneous, honest and constantly evolving, even his longest efforts ( (We're Not) Home Free and The Eight Year Lullabye of Sgt. Tony James) don't fall victim to the over-indulgences that plagues most solo artists. At the end of the day, I'm not sure this is the vehicle that Trevor wants to be known for, but it's one that shows remarkable talent and promise and Labour Day is a record you can't help but let repeat over and over again.

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Posted at 11:44 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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