Almost fifteen years ago, I literally and figuratively walked away from Nova Scotia’s welcoming shores. Without much thought, I left behind family, friends, a lifetime of memories that I somehow wouldn’t trade for the world, but didn’t really want to share with anyone that inhabited it.
A few days before I left, I walked the coastline with a few friends and realized I had no desire to launch a sealed bottle into the surf, hoping in a few years that it would be found. I didn’t want someone to read my message, and worse, if they found it (and ultimately me), I wouldn’t have wanted to be rescued.
I don’t look back on any of those days as the best of times, and thankfully they weren’t the worst. For the most part, I naively try to not look back at all, assuming that the past is left behind and isn’t directly responsible for who I am, what I like or who I love.
But these two bands…
Lucas Hicks - “The Coast”
I hate when people talk about the Halifax sound. As if a few chords, pedals and fuzz defined our East Coast home anymore than a plaid shirt and a dubbed copy of Mother Love Bone spoke for Seattle. I remember those days well, the feeling of walking down those stairs to hear fantastic bands play as part of our city’s scene, but certainly don’t want to hear more bands trying to rekindle a sound or a moment in time. There were enough shitty bands trying that back then, and have been every year since.
The sound people talk about, was actually a diverse collection of styles that marked an incredibly fertile time in music. There shouldn’t have been so much talent in such a small space, and that’s why you can still feel the aftershocks from that impact.
Lucas Hicks music is picked up on those same seismographs. On his new single, “The Coast”, Hicks sings of leaving when we want to stay, or maybe it’s the other way around. He sings with the same love/hate we’ve all felt when that damp, cold wind rips across the harbor and threatens to crush your will. And when he sings, he too magically transforms those familiar chords into something countless try futilely to recreate.
“The Coast” isn’t a throwback or a tribute. It’s simply proof that when put together correctly, by the right person, that “sound” can still make fault lines shift.
Paper Lions - “Bodies in the Water”
These songs, these ideas. God, something so love driven and content shouldn’t tear my heart into shreds. My Friend is one of the poppiest and most enjoyable records I’ve spun in quite some time, but it’s also the one that stings the most.
I’m not nostalgic for moments, and thankfully, have precious few regrets. I’m with the right woman, and we are trying our hardest to raise the right kids. I’ve seen the world and for the most part, been the best man I could. I wouldn’t go back.
But when Paper Lions dedicate a record of crunching riffs and harmonies to their friends and the time they’ve shared over the years, I can’t help but wonder what turned me to stone.
Here is a band so charmed by the people in their life that they are willing to risk their livelihood on those vivid memories. Me, I’ve slowly eliminated almost every connection I have from those times, unfairly blaming distance and time for my own decisions. For close to twenty-five years, every emotion of growing up - winning, losing, broken noses, lust, awkwardness, hate and anger - are tied directly to five or six people that were closer to me than anyone on this Earth.
As we drifted apart it was obvious they did nothing to warrant that treatment, but still, here we are. Strangers with a back story that could fill volumes or box sets, if only anyone chose to put it to paper.
They say you have a lifetime to write your first record, but what makes My Friend impressive is that after sharing the stories and hooks that were nourished over time, Paper Lions went back in the studio and chose to write about their friends and that inspiration helped them find - at least for the front side of this LP - their best hooks to date.
The Paper Lions look back fondly, contently but this record isn’t about the past. It’s about having people in your life that have and will continue to share your life. It’s about the type of people that make you want to sing and dance. It’s about the people that want to make you happy. It really is about friends.