Said The Whale – Little Mountain (Album Review)

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Said The Whale are an Indie band from Canada who won the New Group of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards. Their third album is named after their neighbourhood in Vancouver: Little Mountain.

Little Mountain has 15 tracks, and Said The Whale have clearly spent some time in ordering them. The songs often flow into one another, making it well-suited for listening to the whole album, rather than just downloading individual songs.

Little Mountain opens with ‘We Are 1980’, which has catchy guitar riffs, but the lyrics suggest Said The Whale are apprehensive about modern times: “It’s the information age” and “It’s regrettable, yes/But how could I sleep at night?” This doesn’t change much on the 10th track, ‘2010’, with a fear of the changes that have taken place: “You’re unrecognisable/You’re state of the art” and “You’re un-driveable/You’re falling apart.”

The second track is less cynical; ‘Big Sky, MT’ is charming and unconventional song about love, told through a story from the narrator’s grandfather, who “Picks wild flowers at the top of the hill/Upon the mountainside” and says “That picking flowers is worthwhile/When you’re doing that for your true love/When you see her smile.”

‘Big Wave Goodbye’ is a song about leaving your home (possibly to go on tour) and returning only to find the place has changed, or just that your perspective has changed: “We make it pretty, the way the world sees this city” but it’s a “different city now.” It’s almost a love song written about Vancouver.

Some of the lyrics border the line between catchy and cheesy. The chorus of ‘Loveless’ is “How could I love you less/Now that I know you more” and the second-to-last track, ‘Lucky’, goes “We are lucky and we know it/We clap our hands to show it”, along with actual clapping, but they just about make it work and ‘Lucky’ is one of the most memorable songs on Little Mountain.

The singing duet of Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester could have afforded to sometimes lower the volume of vocals, and take more of a back seat to the music, which ranges from standard rock rhythms, syncopated guitar on ‘We Are 1980’, piano on ‘Seasons’ and brass sections on ‘Big Wave Goodbye’. Although there is the occasional guitar solo, they could have done more to show off the music, and maybe make it a little more aggressive. ‘O Alexandra’, for example, starts off with this aggression with a distorted guitar, but then the singers enter and the song loses its edge.

The album ends with ‘Seasons’. They’ve gone with a slow, mellow ending, with just singing over a piano, but after some very strong songs on the album it is a little underwhelming and an anti-climax. However, apart from a few problems, there is plenty to like about Little Mountain and is worth a listen.

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