Music

Canyons: Keep Your Dreams

Canyons' informal tribute to the dance music they love touches base with its bygone referents without ever surpassing them.


Canyons

Keep Your Dreams

Label: Modular
UK Release Date: Import
US Release Date: 2012-01-31
Online Release Date: 2011-11-15
Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Canyons didn’t need to open their debut, Keep Your Dreams, with two minutes of cresting atmospherics. But then, the Perth natives also didn’t need to bedazzle the first proper track, “Under the Blue Sky”, with Italo-style synth stabs, exotic pet sounds, a wailing sax, and sweet nothings in a francophone baritone. Such is par for course, though, for the album, which revels in the novel tawdriness of disco. But if the sound is sometimes outlandish, the songwriting is disappointingly not, taking refuge as it does in familiarity and irony when it should be delivering on the intro’s promise of something epic.

On these modest terms, Keep Your Dreams is front-loaded. The glitzy, empty fun of “Under the Blue Sky” leads into “My Rescue”, which stays on the dance floor while giving glimpses of the duo’s indie-rock soul. Distortion fuzz and a tense piano figure form a groove sufficient for the eventual barrage of maracas, 808s, and tapped bongos. A fey lead sings about getting liberated by love as if the song’s nonverbal components didn’t already signify as much. As far as Primal Scream impressions go, it isn’t bad, and it’s one of the album’s stronger tracks. But, like “Under a Blue Sky”, it doesn’t go far enough. It touches base with its bygone referents without surpassing them.

The rest of Keep Your Dreams proceeds along these lines, vacillating between acid house and the rock bands inspired by it. That latter category could be expanded to include more recent incarnations of the sound, like fellow Aussies Cut Copy, but also Hercules & Love Affair, whose neo-disco pose gets aped on “See Blind Through”. Canyons, like these groups, is hardly a band in the traditional sense, forgoing the constrictions of a static set-up for a free-wheeling, cosmopolitan production ethos. All the better for mapping out a rich sonic universe, which they do with as much deceptive ease as M83 or Basement Jaxx. Besides, categories are so ten years ago.

But dancing through this post-genre utopia, Canyons never quite finds an identity to call its own. The lyrics on Keep Your Dreams pay endless lip-service to letting the beat set you free, but the music itself is surprisingly restrained. Fidelity to a generic heritage isn’t necessarily a problem – I mean, Hercules & Love Affair, for Christ’s sake – but a solid tune goes a long way, and not much on Canyons’ debut qualifies. Even the fiercer grooves never quite sink their claws in.

Maybe it’s a defensive move, a resistance to the potentially unhip affectation of trying too hard – which has its very own kind of affectation, of course. That’s the only explanation I can manage, anyway, for the disastrous “Sun and Moon”, in which the main vocalist once again does his best Bobby Gillespie in what can only be called the least sincere form of flattery. His thin, nasal timber, done no favors by tinny recording, comes dangerously close to the mock-crooning featured – satirically – on South Park, and if that sounds facetious, well, I really wish it were. The bizarre choice to perform this way, anomalous for the album as a whole and inexplicable in and of itself, turns an otherwise merely featureless post-punk tune into something I wanted to unhear.

Although none of the other songs offend the sensibilities in quite the same way as “Sun and Moon”, they do similarly suggest that Canyons would do well to recalibrate vocally. Many of the better moments are instrumental, including a Prince-ly interlude that perks up the album’s otherwise saggy midsection, and the aforementioned sax, which takes center stage in the Trax Records pastiche “Blue Snakes”. But by the end of three quarters of an hour, only the irresistible “When I See You Again” manages to match “My Rescue” as a worthwhile single, sprucing up guitar jangle to be just slightly gayer than a funky Stone Roses.

Finally, Keep Your Dreams ends how it begins: open-ended and spacey, claiming the headiness of a concept album without really earning it. The presence of a sitar, inexcusably stiff, makes the psychedelic agenda of “And We Dance” quite clear. The idea is probably to leave a listener wanting more. But after such a gaudy, yet wan, set of songs, isn’t that kind of redundant?

5


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.