The initial shock of the influx of increasingly good music from Canada has worn off, and at this point in time, musical genius spawned from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal has become expected, almost routine. One of the most exciting bands that initially caused the tide to turn toward our Northern neighbors for sonic inspiration was the Unicorns. Their music had childlike whimsy but remained also just a little surreal. Unfortunately, the Unicorns abruptly disbanded, but there are others emerging from their hometown to carry the torch.
One such band are The Lovely Feathers. A similarly playful outfit, The Lovely Feathers have shared the stage with the likes of Jason Collett, post-Unicorns project The Islands, and Metric, whose Jimmy Shaw co-produced Hind Hind Legs. Legs will certainly draw comparisons to the Unicorns, and the band is certainly worthy of such comparisons. Like the Unicorns and Wolf Parade, the Lovely Feathers have two vocalists, Mark Kaupfert and Richard Yanofsky, who swap songs and sing over each other. Unlike Wolf Parade, Kaupfert’s and Yanofsky’s vocal stylings are similar, so the difference in vocalists is less noticeable. However, The Lovely Feathers share the same whimsical nature and the same attraction to quirky sounds that the Unicorns did.
The album opens with “Pope John Paul,” whose the title alone makes it one of my favorite songs. It leads in as a fairly straightforward guitar-infused pop song, the kind you would expect from a band of teenagers in their garage. But about a minute and a half in, the drums start to pulsate, Kaupfert and Yanofsky ask “Pope John Paul, where have you gone?” and it turns into a powerful anthem with excellent dueling guitars. Had Bill and Ted been teenagers now, they’d love it. The tempo slows and accelerates throughout the song and it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but in any case “Pope John Paul” makes for an exciting intro.
Want to rock out? Give “In the Valley” a shot. The song has a fun, bouncy bassline and the guitars just keep building and building, making an infectious and energetic song. You can almost see the people pogoing at their shows as it plays. Like their other songs, “In the Valley” has some intricate transitions that, in lesser hands, could make the song awkward and lose the energy. Thankfully, those transitions are handled well, and the driving energy is never broken.
“I Really Like You” is the one song that truly sounds most like the Unicorns. The quirky vocal interplay and hushed chorus echo the Unicorns’ “Jellybones” and “I was Born (A Unicorn).” “Frantic” is one of the biggest highlights of the album, hooking you right from the start with harmonized “oohs” and then quickly jumping into a frantically paced verse, then ending with some sing-along “oohs.”
Before you write the Lovely Feathers off as Unicorns Junior, listen to “Wrong Choice.” The intricate guitar intro recalls the sublime guitar work Daniel Kessler laid down in Interpol’s “Untitled.” The song could easily have been an early Pavement ballad, but the quirks keep it from being too sentimental, yet just emotional enough.
The Lovely Feathers are a band that likes to mix it up. Nearly every song finds them re-routing the melody in the middle, but the changes rarely become problematic. The band members may be burdened with musical ADD, but if nothing else, it keeps the flow interesting and unpredictable. Hind Hind Legs is not a perfect album, however. And even though the band could have easily cranked out 10 songs that just recycle the best songs’ ideas, they don’t. They stick to their guns and play the music that they like and if it doesn’t quite work, that’s ok. You have to admire a band for doing that.