Group whistling, tambourine, handclapping, fey longing, winged eyeliner, and corduroy blazers conspired to create music that was as glittery and piquantly morose as fresh snow on sidewalks under a full moon. Woodpigeon are a group of Calgarians (home to the 1988 Winter Olympics, remember?) playing Mark Andrew Hamiltons episodic orchestral pop concoctions. Woodpigeon has performed alongside the likes of Grizzly Bear, Broken Social Scene, Calexico, Iron & Wine, Basia Bulat, and Julie Doiron amongst others.
On first encounter with Woodpigeon's winningly under-stated debut, you might be forgiven for thinking that the elegant Canadian eight-piece hail from California, such is the light, loving, chilled, sunny, serene, softly swooning, cosseting warmth of all that seems to be on offer.
But dwell a little, and a painful, wistful nostalgia, a disenchantment with the all too quixotic here and now, and rapidly fraying threads of longing and loss, of uneasy displacement, and of unsettling isolation begin to make themselves felt. And suddenly this Woodpigeon becomes an altogether tougher, chewier and tastier proposition.
Any album that begins with a song called Home As A Romanticized Concept Where Everyone Loves You Always And Forever, and ends with the deliciously tongue-in-cheek That Was Good But You Can Do Better, was always going to have something to recommend it. What is especially likable is that somehow Woodpigeon, thanks in no small measure to the engaging jangling juxtaposition of Mark Hamilton's delightfully dour and lovelorn lyrics and sprightly, sweetly mellow music, makes the morose seem wholly palatable.
Hamilton's acute eye for the detail of domestic dramas is matched by a well-proportioned sense of scale and while the easy-going lyricism of it all may evoke the gentleness of folk music, there are enough deftly executed attention-grabbing hooks that hint at a keen pop sensibility lurking in the background.
That Songbook can't be easily label - is there such a category as 'Canadiana'? - is just one enticing element in the manifold attractions of this accomplished, quietly intelligent, playful and really rather enchanting debut. --Michael Quinn
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