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Album Review: Hunting Ghosts (& Other Collected Shorts) by Library Voices

Library Voices bring tight, skillful musical chops to bear in putting together a more polished sound rich in crisp melodies, complex rythms and interesting chord progressions.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 21, 2009

I've got a big soft spot for melodic indie rock bands with dual male-female vocalists. Think of The New Pornographers blending Neko Case's smooth delivery with Carl Newman's Canrock drawl; or the impossibly cute crooning of The Weepies' Deb Talan and Steve Tannen.

A dashing new band out of Regina, Sk. (which suddenly seems to be a hotbed of quirky indie bands) hews to this charming mold in Library Voices, an impressive ten-piece fronted by the fluid vocals of Darcy McIntyre and Carl Johnson.

Their new EP, Hunting Ghosts (& Other Collected Shorts) is a rich, layered affair, combining upbeat pop arrangements with clean vocals, warm harmonies and the kind of instrumentation that you can only buy with ten skillful musicians.

Although they share a hometown with the outwardly similar Rah Rah, Library Voices have definitely followed their pop muse in a different direction. Whereas Rah Rah acknowledge their, er, indieish musicality and go for broke on irascible charm, the Voices bring tight, skillful musical chops to bear in putting together a more polished sound rich in crisp melodies, complex rhythms and interesting chord progressions.

At the same time, they sidestep the elaborate, discordant posturing of a Broken Social Scene and focus instead on crafting really smooth, mellifluous and - dare I write - uplifting music that reminded me a bit of what early Treble Charger might have sounded like with less distortion and more instruments.

I'm happy to report that smart lyrics also hold up their end, making cheeky references to Franz Kafka and Kurt Vonnegut amid clever wordplay and rhythmic turns of phrase, perhaps best embodied in the irreverent lyrics to "Things We Stole from Vonnegut's Grave", a song Vonnegut himself may well have appreciated.

But right from the opening track, "Step off the Map and Float" (incidentally the first song the band composed together), the band pushes hard to keep the music surprising, flowing smoothly through elaborate key changes and complex, fluid instrumentation.

"Kundera on the Dance Floor" follows hard with a fast progression lifted from late Joy Division/early New Order that quickly expands and unfolds into a clever stack of melodies and graceful harmonies.

"Hunting Ghosts" starts out haunting - not surprisingly - but shifts by degrees into a warm chorus with just enough hint of bluegrass to keep the song from getting soupy.

Between its surprising time and key changes, "The Lonely Projectionist" captures the same sense of bittersweet whimsy as the iconic soundtrack to 2006 film Little Miss Sunshine.

All in all, Hunting Ghosts (& Other Collected Shorts) a tremendous first effort, and a tantalizing taste (we hope) of a fully realized album to come. Then again, with such dense musicality packed into a six-song EP, I almost don't need a full bundle of 12 or 14 tracks to tide me over.

You can sample Library Voices' music on their Myspace page:

The Library Voices play at the Casbah, 306 King St. W. in Hamilton, on July 22.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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