“WE acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Music Fund for this project.”
Every time I read that acknowledgement, I shake my head. I just can’t get past the fact that Canada actually gives grants to indie musicians. You’d never hear of such a thing in the States. In fact, we have it so backward that we’re putting billions of dollars into destroying things, rather than creating something that would, quite possibly, make the world a slightly better place. But Canada has the right idea. Instead of defending a bogus macho image of a nation as bully, they opt for a better quality of living, which apparently includes good music.
Jim Guthrie, a Toronto native, is one such musician who has created a masterpiece for which the Canadian government signed the checks. Now, More Than Ever, the singer-songwriter’s third album, shows just how well public money can be put to use. Lush, string-laden and chock full of vibrant instrumentation, Now is as gorgeous an album as an artist can possibly craft.
From the album opener “Problem with Solutions” to the closer “You Are Far (Do You Exist?),” Now, More Than Ever seamlessly transitions from graceful ballad to snappy ditty to triumphant anthem. Guthrie attempts twangy folk in “Problem With Solutions,” offering insights like “sometimes noise makes the prettiest sounds,” over some banjo plucks, courtesy of The Constantines’ Bry Webb. The beginning of “All Gone” builds tension with a suspenseful cello intro, changing abruptly to a lovely chamber pop tune. “So Small” bounces along with grace and serenity, coupling a simple piano melody with some flute and clarinet harmonies.
One of Guthrie’s strengths, aside from merely writing a great song, is his knack for stretching a four-minute pop song into a mini-epic with elaborate storylines. Take “Save It,” for instance, with its main character, who “had a little plan/to build himself a ship/with a rusty old paint can/and an oscillating fan.” The hero of the song later meets a garbage man who proclaims, believe in me/ I take the trash away.” Quirky lines like these immediately bring to mind other inventive songwriters like Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and Robyn Hitchcock, an artist who both musicians most likely would list as one of their influences.
I don’t know, exactly, how much money the crimson Maple Leaf gave Guthrie, but the fact that he had any assistance from his nation’s lawmakers makes our northern border all that much more tempting. Funding is beside the point, however, because Jim Guthrie made a genius piece of music, and it would have been just as good had he decided to forgo a budget altogether and record it direct to minicassette.
Matt Pond PA – The Nature of Maps
Eric Matthews – It’s Heavy in Here
The Decemberists – Castaways and Cutouts
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.