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

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image