It’s hard to imagine Lyn Heinemann as anything but the charismatic front woman of one of Vancouver’s most powerful three-pieces. Lyn’s voice, husky and powerful enough to sing about fucking or the drug issues on the Lower East Side with conviction but tender enough to portray genuine sadness and sympathy, is so identifiable that hearing it involved in any other project is slightly unsettling.
Thankfully Lyn’s song writing is as solid as her voice, so the transition from Portico to the front woman of Drawn Ship is a successful one. The duo – Hinterland‘s percussionist Gregg Steffensen counterpoints Lyn’s guitar and vocals work – strips things back and uses raw, minimal arrangements to carry heavy subject matter. Lyn’s voice and workman-like guitar take center stage, but Gregg’s ability to use intricate drum patterns to add nice texture to the straightforward tones and gives the record a vibe as honest as an child’s tongue. No punches are pulled; Lyn doesn’t glorify or even attempt to justify her decisions and no sound is hidden behind unnecessary layers.
As usual, Lyn writes what she sees. The highlight of First Neighbours was “Unreunion”, an infectious track about the awkward silences masked by the allure of new sex. After listening to Low Domestic, it’s obvious that time spoiled those fantasies and physical rewards, leaving Lyn alone trying to suppress the pain.
“Nothing’s been right since that night you went alone/Nothing’s been right since you stayed out all night and didn’t phone.
Now I drink Whiskey in bed because it helps me sleep/Even my friends don’t know what you’ve done to me.”
Drinking alone to kill the pain is a reality we’ve all faced, but when it comes to Low Domestic, it’s the tip of the iceberg. Lyn’s pen documents the painful emotions she went through and her ability to recreate those feelings is what makes this record work. It’s easy to get engrossed in addictive, bouncy riffs like “Glass Eye” and “Body Parts” are (or how they crush a great Richard Buckner cover), but it’s when you really start listening that record reveals itself. These aren’t tales of teenage lust and they certainly aren’t black and white situations. The muscle Lyn gives to massive “Sick With the Sound” when she remembers hearing that he doesn’t want a relationship and she’s only a fuck suits the callous, matter of fact situation perfectly. You wonder why she stays but as the record unfolds you can hear her true heart when she hints that it’s worth losing friends just to be with him on the heartbreaking “Only You.”
Even though it started as a breakup record, Drawn Ship tempers the sadness with heavy grooves or crunchy guitars. It’s dark and moody, but the vocal harmonies from Hannah Georges and LL Schultz help make even the most sour moments seem sweet. Lyn has always had the chops to write about history and situations that tug at your heart strings, and any hint of self-pity is offset with interesting and completely unrelated subject matter. One of the album highlights, “Execution”, is another fantastic look at the life and times of Louis Riel (a song that benefits from Gregg’s simple, but perfectly paired percussion), and with songs about the death of a WWII pilot and some chilling tales of sexual abuse and addiction Lyn’s dealt with as a councilor, Low Domestic demands your attention without overwhelming you with personal heartbreak.
Skeptics might say that Drawn Ship isn’t really doing anything new, and I’d respond with agreement, but they are doing it really fucking well. It’s a guitar record, filled with nice transitions and breakdowns, well paired drums and a lead singer that is saying something worth hearing. Honestly, you can keep your mashups, your mixtapes, your precious alt. country and your hashtag raps. I’ll take Drawn Ship each and every time.