PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Great Lake Swimmers: Bodies and Minds

Dave Brecheisen

Bodies and Minds breathes with the emotion of Dekker's voice and pulses with the subtle beauty of his sparse acoustic arrangements. This album deserves a broad audience and Dekker deserves mention with Sam Beam as today's most lauded singer-songwriters.


Great Lake Swimmers

Bodies and Minds

Label: Misra
US Release Date: 2005-10-11
UK Release Date: 2005-04-11
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

From the first reverb-drenched notes of "Song for the Angels" I was hooked. I can't help it. I'm a sucker for stripped-to-nothing acoustic guitar. Blame Neil Young. Then, enter Tony Dekker's voice, as soft and understated as Sam Beam's and laced with the same wounded tone as Mark Kozelak's. I'm sold; completely surrendered to the album. If the 42 minutes that followed this aching ballad were a disaster I still could have listened to Bodies and Minds three or four times before putting it down. Fortunately, for everyone this album isn't a disaster at all. In fact, it may be one of this fall's best. So good is this album that when I first sat down to write the review I was at a complete loss as to what I should write. These 11 songs from Great Lake Swimmers architect Tony Dekker are so compelling and magnificent that I had a difficult time grounding myself long enough to begin the review. I was completely in its grasp.

Bodies and Minds is the second full-length album from Toronto native Tony Dekker. While the first album, Great Lake Swimmers, was met with critical acclaim and laid the groundwork for what was to come, it is this sophomore effort that should demand the absolute attention of the music community. It isn't that the Great Lake Swimmers are doing anything earth-shattering on this album. To be sure, they are working entirely within the framework established by generations of North American singer-songwriters. What makes this album so special is the near-perfect execution. Bodies and Minds breathes with the emotion of Dekker's voice and pulses with the subtle beauty of his sparse acoustic arrangements.

In the spirit of his debut, Dekker again selected a desolate atmosphere to record. The debut was recorded entirely in a silo; Bodies and Minds was recorded entirely in a rural lakeside church in Ontario. This is less a side-note than you may initially think. The effect this atmosphere has lent to the music provides much of the character in these songs. The music sounds at once ethereal and intimate, like a specter wafting through open windows. On "Let's Trade Skins" the drums sound as though they were recorded from a block away, while Dekker's understated voice resonates like that specter of the past is hovering just over your shoulder. The effect is arresting.

It isn't the only time that Dekker manages to create such a poignant moment. "Various Stages" is as sublime a folk song as you are likely to hear this year. The mid-tempo riff and harmonica sound as though they could have been plucked right from Harvest. In less capable hands, this could be an irreconcilable misstep. However, once Dekker enters with the lyrics, "I have seen you in various stages of undress / I have seen you through various states of madness", his broken-hearted timbre completely inhabits the song, transcending any such thought. By the time he fully apologizes, "I am sorry I have nothing left for you", I was so wrapped up in the song, I had dismissed my fleeting comparisons to Neil Young.

The added instrumentation on Bodies and Minds (spare as it may be) adds another depth to this album that was somewhat lacking on the Great Lake Swimmers' debut. The players on Bodies and Minds lend a subtle craftsmanship to this album that shouldn't be ignored. The title track actually borders on becoming a full-blown rock song, while "Falling into the Sky" benefits greatly from the voices of the London Community Singers. It isn't just these two tracks that benefit. Nearly every time the subtle slide guitar and (highly underused) Wurlitzer surface on the album, the effect is spellbinding.

Bodies and Minds is a terrific album, one that will stay in heavy rotation throughout the winter months for sure. A more cynical reviewer (certainly I have been that at times) may dismiss this album on the grounds of being derivative. To that person, I would only argue that they have no soul. What is borrowed from the past is made new by the subtle grace of Dekker's songwriting and the Great Lake Swimmers' careful musicianship. Bodies and Minds deserves a broad audience and Dekker's name deserves mention alongside Sam Beam's as one of today's most lauded singer-songwriters.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


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.