Over the last few years, I’ve realized I’m a bit of a pessimist. If we met casually over drinks you’d think I laugh all the time, but those that really know me know I don’t always take joy from the simple things. Underneath it all, I’ve grown to assume it will eventually work out, but the speed bumps and potholes will do a number on the suspension and alignment first.
I never used to be this way and can’t pinpoint when I changed, but I have and that’s probably why I don’t get excited about New Years Eve or take comfort in endless possibilities. I see my life in reverse, taking pride in what I’ve overcome or what I’ve done. I find happiness in those small victories, not in the freedom of hope. Admittedly, that’s not the most appealing outlook, but it certainly shapes my musical tendencies. I’m not hunting for confetti canons or dance floor escapes. For me, music is about connections and challenges. Songs need to be more than three-minute snippets of energy. They need to be a light at the end of a tunnel, but can’t be afraid to take that first nervous step into the dark.
Montreal’s Old Believer - Brendan Birkett and his talented backing band - writes songs for people like me. Dark and pensive, these two songs (Smoke Signals are the best free songs you will find) are unwilling to break into full stride and at times nervously look back over their shoulder. On the surface, you hear the Taylor Kirk-like vocals and minimal arrangements and think Birkett assumes his fate is predetermined and nothing can save him now. In reality, this talented song writer is more akin to Kris Ellestad, as both use core melodies to offer a hint of sun or clear skies they so desperately want and just can’t find. What most don’t realize is that having to think about death, like he does on “Smoke Signals”, but adamantly acknowledging that you don’t want to die is as hopeful as some people get.
If Old Believer can teach us anything, it’s that this year it will get better. For him, for you, for me. Hope doesn’t have to be frantic desperation, it can be our will. Birkett isn’t scratching on the floorboards, trying to hold on with every remaining ounce of strength. No, these songs with their beautiful banjo, malleted cymbals, lap steel and harmonies are his way of letting fate now he won’t be controlled anymore.
MP3:: Old Believer - Smoke Signals