Artist: Great Lake Swimmers
Album: Lost Channels
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review at: in your speakers
Has a song ever haunted you? Has the voice of a certain singer conjured ancient spirits, captured forgotten emotions, and left you feeling a little displaced, but in a good way? Can the places in which a tune is crafted and a lyric composed encompass the ghosts that once dwelled there? The answer is a simple, resounding "yes." Don't believe me? Listen to Lost Channels, the practically ethereal new album from Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers.
The core of this hip, empowering folk-rock group is singer/songwriter Tony Dekker. Dekker enjoys adding the occasional sound of harmonica and acoustic guitar to his particular musical style. The man is a genius, and his magical talent affects everything he touches. The band has previously released three albums: Great Lake Swimmers in 2003, Bodies and Minds in 2005, and Ongiara in 2007. Although some members of the band have changed since the seven years that Great Lake Swimmers have been active, Erik Arnesen has been Dekker’s constant right-hand man. Other band members include Greg Millson, Darcy Yates, and Julie Fader. Several of the songs feature perfected cameos by Paul Aucoin, Serena Ryder, and Bob Egan.
The album gives off an effortless sense of awe. Where other bands are loud, Great Lake Swimmers are quiet. Where other bands are full of undefinable hubris, Great Lake Swimmers are endearingly humble. Where other bands are complicated, Great Lake Swimmers are simple, but deceptively so.
The album represents a journey in which each song is a different path traveled, a different river crossed, and a different haunted church. Great Lake Swimmers are known for recording their music in isolated churches, buildings, and other lonesome places. And each church, each castle, each community lends their soul to the music created there. The band traversed the Thousand Islands region of Ontario, carrying their gear from boat to boat to record the castle bells that open "Singer Castle Bells".
The album starts out with "Palmistry", a beautifully flowing song with a universal theme. A man looking at the palm of his hand and trying to decipher his divine future from the lines he sees. "I've been carrying a heavy load," the man begins. He is joined with another voice for the refrain "Oh dear God, won't you tell me how I will not feel so lonely?" This plea seems as if God is not listening, ignoring, and the emotion is raw. The singer decides to read his own future, "Read the patterns on my skin, let the fire somehow get in. See my heartline is intact, so this is what I'm left...tell me something divine. Is there a future in these lines?"
This is followed up by the chant "Everything is Moving So Fast," whose lyrics eerily (yet motivationally) repeat "Everything is moving so fast. I am unlimited. Everything is moving so fast. I am unlimited." The song is a chant, one you feel you understand deep in your core, one that is easy for you to repeat. This would be the perfect song to listen to on a bus heading in an unknown direction, rain on the window, and you, uncertain of your future, but taking the leap anyway.
So much of this album is about the give and take of life, the ebb and flow, the yin and yang. It’s about someone wanting to talk to God, but seeing the divine inside the self. It’s about someone who realizes that they have unlimited potential and yet still finds life moving too fast. This idea is recapitulated in the third track, and lead single, "Pulling On A Line." The song has a melody and message that will hit the right chord with everyone. There is a line that seems to connect us all, each human to every other human. Sometimes we get pulled on and go a certain way, and sometimes we are the ones being pulled. Dekker refers to the song as an "abstract tug of war." And the pristine voice in which he sings it rings true. Sometimes we are the ones in control and sometimes we have to give up control and go with the flow. "I'm just pulling on a line and sometimes it pulls on me," he sings.
Perhaps one of the most captivating tracks is "Come To Me in Dreams" due to the combination of Dekker's voice, the soft drums, the beautiful and comforting harmonies, and the captivating lyrics. It will be a song that stays with you long after it is finished. The idea of your lover, a person with so much influence in your life appearing to you first in a dream is the idea that feeds the souls of poets.
This is but a taste of this album. The album is calm. The album rings. The album haunts. Simply put, Lost Channels will make you feel like you just found an old part of yourself that you left long ago along the river's edge.