The most demonstrably Canadian Canadian’s Great Lake Swimmers return with album number six. On A Forest of Arms these reliable and salubrious songsmiths continue to tug on heart strings and evoke wide open North American spaces. The album was uniquely recorded across said landscapes, haunting acoustics captured in Ontario caves, amongst the bats. On CD and vinyl from Nettwork Records.
6/10 Robin Staff review, 23 April 2015
La la la la woah ooooooh, can you hear the sound of wide open spaces and heartfelt hearts? Described with our favourite of indie rock words as “darlings”, Canadian folk outfit Great Lake Swimmers do that thing we’re all become accustomed to through Youtube VEVO accounts: they take pastorality and make it panoramic. Sounding reliantly like Mumford & Sons on a comedown (so, sounding like Horse Feathers, then), their sixth album ‘A Forest of Arms’ is a boisterously produced record that asks you to just pretend it was made with the wilderness at its heart. Just make nice, this once.
Breathing in the beautiful landscape, these folks arrange pretty but uninteresting tunes with little storytelling prowess and a lot of cliches -- they rush through lyrics like “Snakes against angels and stairways to heaven / I’m shaking all over and I can’t control it” with self-effacing sighs, letting the brushed percussion and upright bass apologise while piling on the tropes. After hearing proper revisionist folk sounds this year in Ryley Walker, this record sounds a little polished, reverent towards good marketing rather than good ideas. Though flourishes like nimble twang and fiddle shift peacefully through “Shaking All Over”, the song remains lifeless.
This is wonderfully arranged stuff, but that’s the problem: ‘A Forest of Arms’ sounds more like a checklist than an album, cramming in a full roster of folk ideas -- accordion, anyone? Gentle picking? Waterboys-esque barnburner? Great Lake Swimmers encompass a full spectrum of commercialised traditions, rarely stopping to think about what they want to say.
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