Relaxed Folk Pop in a Hectic World
Veteran indie rocker Brendan Canning’s latest album, comprised entirely of languid folk pop, is curiously entitled You Gots 2 Chill. Somehow the title’s slangy nonchalance makes sense. His second solo album apart from Broken Social Scene, Canning’s laid-back acoustic compositions are tinged with atmospheric synths and low key beats and invite you to relax outside the margins of a hectic digital age.
With the exception of its overtly sarcastic title, the album is subtly aware of the modernity it defies. The feel-good island jam, “However Long,” for example, is backed by a beat machine, which even breaks out into a reggaeton rhythm during the chorus. Likewise, “Never Go To The Races,” incorporates shifting sound effects and low buzzing synths into its acoustic make-up. But the synthetic instruments are played in a minimalistic, underwhelming manner that subtly compliment the guitar work. You Gots 2 Chill‘s modern sounds are never louder than its folky ones– but they are there. That touch doesn’t seem accidental.
Canning has a talent for seamlessly weaving acoustic melodies into rich textures, as is showcased in instrumentals such as the stripped down “Post Fahey,” and the beat-heavy “New Zealand Tap Dancing Finals.” His guitar style is simple in form like John Prine’s but with intricate and nuanced accompaniment. Canning’s voice, which is smooth and fragile, glides waveringly over each track like a kite. A female voice backs up his chilled out vocals throughout the record, even singing lead on “Bullied Days.” Her voice is as gentle and confiding as his, and together they evoke much of the easy warmth and intimacy that makes this album great.
Beneath its comfortable, quilted surface, You Gots 2 Chill has an underlying anxiety about the modern world which gives it a conceptual edge. For instance, the divergent blip “Long Live Land Lines” sounds like an Ariel Pink production until you realize it’s just Canning playing guitar into an old message machine. This strange little flashback, in the context of our loud and complicated world, seems to say, cherish harmony and quietude while you still can. Message received.