What’s the measure of whether a band’s reached that threshold of popularity that tips them into the public eye? My guess, these days, is whether they’ve got a Wikipedia entry—i.e. does someone care enough about the band to re-write their bio and miscellaneous trivia? Either way, Abernethy’s certainly not at that point yet. This is the Vancouver singer-songwriter’s second full-length CD, a follow-up to 2004’s He Teeny She, but it feels timeless and self-assured, as if Joseph Abernethy has always been producing these floating, static tunes. The instruments are simple: reverberating piano or organ, guitar, voice. Occasionally, subtle percussion. But from these, Abernethy strings a variety of folk-centered musical explorations that, though limited in their reach, are nonetheless lovely. He’s not as sophisticated a songwriter as someone like Adem but then innovation’s not the issue; like the Finches, Abernethy’s genre-limited and it’s just fine. Jazz-inspired one minute (“Queer, Bright”) and mystical the next (“Ancient Lake”), Abernethy’s music finds a poetic beauty in darkness and even mysticism. At his most upbeat, the singer’s voice reminds of Stephen Merritt or even Jens Lekman, as on the James Taylor-quoting “Unforgettably Young”. At his best, Abernethy creates these stagnant, static loops of harmony and melody that are transportive. On “True of Ourselves” he muses that “poetry surrounds us but it’s not easy to put into a song”. We can say, though, that throughout College Grove Abernethy has succeeded in doing just that.
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