Local Natives. The Cure. Arcade Fire. Fleet Foxes. Coldplay. These are some of the reference points found within the sophomore release from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan’s Close Talker, Flux. The band was a finalist in CBC’s Searchlight competition for Best New Artist in 2013, coming off the strength of their debut album, Timbers. Flux, on the other hand and despite the title, doesn’t really show a band in transition, but, rather, moving with potency from one song to the next. As a whole, Flux is chewy, and has a fairly idiosyncratic resonance, even though, as you listen to these 10 songs, you’ll hear hints and references of other bands – some obvert, some not.
However, if there’s one thing you can say about this LP, it is that it is immensely pleasing. While “Burnstick” might be the album’s obvious highlight, the tracks of Flux are uniform, and are best listened to and appreciated as a whole. Thus, Close Talker has, in essence, crafted an album, one that brings new rewards each time you listen to it. While Flux may not win awards for ingenious originality, there’s something compelling at work here, and illustrates the grasp that Close Talker has on indie rock. It’s Canadian, and yet it isn’t. There’s something more at work on this platter, even if you may be hard pressed to put an exact finger on it.
“Heads”, the song that opens the album, is the band’s most obvious attempt at mimicking the Cure, with that particular bass sound that the British mope rock group uses. However, there’s a touch of Local Natives meets Coldplay going on, too, and the blending of these diverse influences make for a captivating listen. The chorus, in particular, is soaring and angelic, and you know just from hearing it that this is a song not destined for the club scene, but the biggest arenas in the land. There is a mark of clear ambition at work on this song, and it serves as a rumbling calling card of Close Talker’s purpose. “Burnstick”, meanwhile, has a distinctly New Romanic vibe going for it, coupled with the band’s influences from the double-aughts indie rock. With its brazen harmonies and an ear catching melody, “Burnstick” illustrates that this band, when they’re working with all of their capabilities, is firing on all cylinders.
“Blurring Days” showcases a key forte of this outfit’s signature style: the use of a tumultuous drum beat that pumps blood like the heart to all of the body’s muscles and organs. That’s perhaps where the obvious comparisons to Local Natives may come into play. However, the use of a saxophone in the song gives this a jazzy strut, showing that Close Talker can and will rise above any comparisons made to other groups. “For the Sun” shows the outfit reaching into comparisons to another Canadian band of note, the Provincial Archive, in terms of its vocal delivery. While the Provincial Archive is more folksy in nature, Close Talker rise toward indie hymns.
The band also has a sense of the grand: the album’s centrepiece is a two-part song called “The Silence”, both of which are among the record’s most memorable. Augmented by a liquid guitar line, the vocals are sparse and spare, and, yet, despite Part One’s simplicity, the melody is spun with gold and leaves a haunting, lingering impression. The second part or movement cops a similar trait: with just vocals and quiet guitar lick, before drums and other instrumentation kicks in after more than a minute, the song loiters with the listener. While these are memorable moments on the record, they also drag the pace down slightly. Still, one cannot deny the power and the beauty of these monumental movements.
“Patmos”, which immediately follows, has an arty take on proceedings, and sounds remotely Arcade Fire-ish. With a zippy bass line that hums and reverberates, the song mesmerizes. Indeed, listening to it is a bit like watching a watch swing back and forth. The album closes with the icy “Slow Weather”, with a frozen keyboard sustained chord that brings to mind the slush and messiness that appears after a winter storm in mild weather. While it ends the album on a quiet note, and one wishes that things end on a much more forceful note, it still sticks in all of its evocative glory.
While the last half of Flux is fairly languid and, once you start thinking of these songs deeply and truly you can perhaps poke holes in them, what Close Talker has delivered is a fine disc that plays out in homogeneous motion. There’s plenty of craft on display, and you may be amused to learn that this took all of three weeks to record – it seems that this would have been something that would take a longer, a much longer, period of time to get down on tape. Still, Flux beats at the heart of Canadian indie rock, and even though the band itself notes wryly in one of the songs that this has been all done before, it does a deft job of at least trying to bury or hide its obviousness. For that, this is something worthy of listening to and, more apt, enjoying. It conjures up the feel of a colder Canadian climate, and these songs can be worn like a jacket.
Flux is comfort food, the sort of thing you may turn to when you’re feeling maxed out on other groups, and just lay back and listen to, letting these songs gently rinse over you. There’s a captivation to this material, and shows that Close Talker is a band worthy of taking with much gravity and heft. Flux may not be perfect, but it shows that this group, a four piece, is willing to stretch out beyond boundaries imposed by nationalism, and still makes music that will make Canadians proud. Deftly penchant, heart rendering and thoughtful, Close Talker is certainly a band worth chatting about.