Music

Immaculate Machine: Immaculate Machines Fables

The Canadian trio follows the New Pornographers' lead on its third album, and does it surprisingly well.


Immaculate Machine

Immaculate Machine's Fables

Label: Mint
US Release Date: 2007-06-12
UK Release Date: 2007-07-09
Amazon
iTunes

For those who expressed trepidation upon news that the New Pornographers were replacing the much-loved Neko Case with Carl Newman's niece Kathryn Calder while touring, all doubts were thrown by the wayside when young Ms. Calder proved to be an exceptional fill-in, holding her own on such Neko standards as "Letter from an Occupant" and "All for Swinging You Around". Calder's tenure as a member of the band has gone on to benefit her other band, Immaculate Machine, which has become a regular opening band for its labelmates. Better yet, though, after initially attracting a small indie audience with its innocuous blend of polite vocal hooks and inoffensive arrangements, the Victoria, British Columbia, trio is now making a serious stab at a substantial piece of the Canadian indie pop pie thanks to a bold third album that draws a great deal of influence from Uncle Carl.

While the band's previous efforts were never short of ebullient performances and the layered vocal harmonies of co-vocalists Calder (keyboards), Brooke Gallupe (guitar), and Luke Kozlowski (drums), songs like "Broken Ships", "On/Off", and "So Cynical" struggled to find those brilliant little hooks that the Pornographers make seem so effortless, and ended up sounding tentative and slightly forced as a result. A couple years of touring with Canada's greatest pop export seems to have paid off in a big way, though, as Immaculate Machine's Fables has hooks aplenty, delivered by a band that sounds tighter and more confident than it ever has before.

Like Newman's best moments, the lyrics to snappy opening track "Jarhand" are decidedly ambiguous, but the song boasts a melody that's as effervescent as it is incessant, not to mention an inexplicable pub chant led by (again, inexplicably) Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos and UK band the Cribs, making it one of those great little songs we all sing along to, even though we have no idea what they're going on about. Calder's voice soars on the track. Conversely, she heads in a completely opposite direction on the lovely "Blinding Light", singing tenderly over the rippling tones of a Rhodes piano. It's no question that Calder's voice is the band's greatest asset, and the album is as its best when she's front and center. "Northeastern Wind" is an excellent sketch of life on the road, Gallup adding melodic fills and discordant drones as Calder croons with an entrancing combination of wistfulness and exhaustion, adding wry little prairie-referencing asides such as, "I've never been so glad to see Regina before". The languid "Roman Statues" has her spouting cryptic conversational excerpts, but sells it with her gentle vocal delivery.

Gallupe manages to hold his own well on the urgent, nervous "Pocket", straining his voice like Hot Hot Heat's Steve Bays, and his vocal collaboration with Kozlowski is effective on "Small Talk", but every time Calder enters the fray, it's like sunlight suddenly emerging from behind the clouds. Consequently, the boy-girl duets are especially successful. The contagious "Dear Confessor" continues in the same West Coast indie pop mold as "Jarhand", Calder and Gallupe offsetting each other nicely. Gallupe's guitar adds some heft to the darker "Old Flame", underscored by Kozlowski's fluid drum fills before the song veers off in a very Franz Ferdinand-like bridge midway through. "Nothing Ever Happens" is a perceptive look at smalltown life, but its lyrical ennui is offset by a disarmingly upbeat arrangement, Calder and Gallupe making the chorus of "Nothing ever happens in my town" sound exalting. Meanwhile, "C'mon Sea Legs" manages to sound downright poignant as it builds to a grandiose, cinematic climax.

Produced by the ubiquitous Vancouver duo of Dave Carswell and John Collins, and containing string arrangements by the similarly ubiquitous session player/scorer Owen Pallett, Immaculate Machine's Fables is the assured step forward many of us had been hoping from the band, a consistent album with enough catchy songs to make the rest of the indie pop world envious. For those who find the New Pornographers' Challengers too understated, they had best seek this mighty fine disc out.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image