Woodpigeon: Treasury Library Canada

The first half of this record makes its case as a fine pop record. But while the raw talent is there for Woodpigeon, the band could probably use an editor.


Treasury Library Canada

Label: Boompa
US Release Date: 2009-02-03
UK Release Date: Available as import

When you hear the right song from Canada's Woodpigeon, it is hard to believe they haven't garnered more attention sooner. Their sophomore album, Treasury Library Canada, was originally self-released and only available on tour or from the band's website. But after a while the album got enough attention, including ending up on some high-profile best-of lists in 2008, and the Boompa record company has stepped up and reissued the album for a larger audience.

The first half of the record makes its case as a fine pop record. The band's sound is lush and ornate, but grounded in folk sounds. "Knock Knock" is achingly broken by Mark Hamilton's lilting vocals, but it's driven by a steady, thundering drum, and distant worming guitar riff that pleads over his acoustic plucking. "Piano Pieces for Adult Beginners" starts with, yes, a single piano, but not only proves itself sweetly catchy, but swells with layers of organ and synth, and another basic, but perfectly bouncy drum track. "I Live a Lot of Places" serves as a sort of statement of purpose for the rest of record, pinpointing a lost and searching feeling that weaves throughout these songs, a placelessness that manifests itself as pained longing. Violins swirl and tumble to open the track but rescind into the background and give way to the stripped-down chug of Americana. Voices come in during choruses to hold up Hamilton's voice and delivering fragile but undeniable melodies.

They show a lot of variety in these opening tracks, with the country-sway of "Cities of Weather" and the solitary folk of "7th Fret Over Andres" filling out the first half. On top of all of these tracks is Hamilton's shy keen, and on these beautifully orchestrated songs, his honeyed whisper works. But once you hit "7th Fret Over Andres", the album starts to shift. The sense of searching and discovery in the early tracks too often gives way to meandering. Even the solid "7th Fret..." sounds an awful lot -- as in, exactly -- like Sufjan Stevens, which is enough to keep it from standing out in an hour-long set, particularly when later on "The Hamilton Academicals" shows a much more original and effective side to Hamilton's balladry.

But with the exception of the storming guitars and violin that surge through "Anna, Girl in the Clocktower", the second half of the disc lags. No matter how many instruments they pack into these songs -- and they pack a lot -- they feel like they're running out of ideas as the album stretches on. The urgency of the drums in the early songs falls away, they slip into a string of quiet mid-tempo tracks and, as a result, it gets harder and harder to gleam melodic gems from particular tracks. And even when they break away from the monotonous feel they fall into, it is with the overly cute "Love in the Time of Hopscotch", a song that rides on a cheap-sounding organ riff and, as if they get tired of it too, the song ends up settling back into the hushed pop of the rest of the record anyway.

It's hard to fault the band for the album's underwhelming second half, since the first half is so strong. But in the future the band needs to avoid the self-indulgence this slips into. The reissue of Treasury Library Canada comes with a second bonus disc entitled Houndstooth Europa. It acts as a stripped-down companion piece, and does highlight the band's knack for beautiful folk, but there isn't too much that sticks out. And in the end, it just makes for a bigger, muddier pool of songs in which the strongest stuff can get diluted. The raw talent is there for Woodpigeon, and Hamilton is a beautiful songwriter, and a compelling if understated frontman. It just turns out that he, and the band, could probably use an editor.


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

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

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

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
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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