Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: Elvyn - Valley Of The Kilowatt Hour

It is a sad age we live in.

Growing up in the 1970's and coming of age in the 1980's I would have never imagined living long enough to experience the nadir of the album as an artform. Little did I realize it would take less than 25 years for the vital impulse that brought us everything from Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds to Spilt Milk and Girlfriend, not to mention everything in-between, to come sputtering to a halt. Instead we live in an age where pop music is all about the single, the novelty, the intangible, the disposable. We've even witnessed the sad spectacle of established artists giving away their new album as if they were slightly embarrassed at having created such a product so at odds with the ethos of today.

Unlike impotent critics like yours truly (culturally speaking only, thankfully), Canadian power poppers Elvyn can do more than rage against the machine. With their late 2015 release, Valley of the Kilowatt Hour, Elvyn reminds us all what the album had and has to offer. Maybe it was the circa 1965 album art that triggered this particular rant of mine, but the look and feel of the cover fits perfectly with the sounds contained within.

I am not saying the album sounds like mid 60's pop music. Oh, there is a lovely Beach Boys tinged track ("Robins Song"), but the emphasis is on the band displaying an impressive mastery of their own sound. That sounds draws equally from americana/roots music, think of the poppier side of fellow Canadians Blue Rodeo, and 90's alt guitar rock in the Toad the Wet Sprocket vein, with occasional nods to classic 60's sounds like the aforementioned Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel.

There are 11 tracks on this album and it is almost right to say there are 11 highlights on it. "Ellie" invites you to sing your heart out with its lovely melody and "everyone join in" chorus. "This is the End" with its working stiff anthem lyric is just as engaging, and the groovy shuffle of "Landslide Cities" could get even the most lethargic of us to get on their feet to sway rhythmically. "Turning me Down" is an acoustic guitar and electric organ toe-tapper (yeah, that's a thing) that simply charms.

"AM" is probably the heart and soul of the record. Part lament for the musical world we have lost and part of a celebration of what we still have to enjoy, it is propelled by a gloriously slutty guitar riff. It's not trashy, it just wants it so bad, whatever "it" might be.

Maybe we are walking among our own ruins and we haven't realized it yet. However, if we can have albums like this one playing in the background it won't be nearly as bad as it might be.

Grade: A

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