“What Will You Be Building?” by Amelia Curran

This Friday (Oct 12th) local singer-songwriter Amelia Curran will be releasing her brand new album Spectators at the Arts & Culture Centre with special guest Andrew James O’Brien. A little while ago an advanced copy of the album arrived at The Scope headquarters so I thought today I’d kick back, have a few listens and do a track by track review of it.

1. Years Great opening track. Starts the whole album of with a feel-good, optimistic vibe. I love the subdued organ in the background and the wide open sound of the drums. Some well-placed distorted electric guitar toward the end gives the sound a little extra weight.

2. What Will You Be Building? Inspirational sentiment and beautifully written lyrics about making the most out of life while we can. The chorus says it all, “What will you be building when you have to go?” A lovely ballad with a solid horn section giving it some extra punch and that triumphant “When the Saints Go Marching In” feel.

3. The Modern Man I love the way the finger-picked acoustic guitar and bass rise and fall together throughout this song. More brilliant lyrics here: “If the working man has all the land and we have all the fun, does it rain on everyone or am I dreaming? If I substitute the tried and true upon a razor’s edge, only half what’s in my head can I believe in.” The flow reminds me of early Dylan. Nice staccato snare and timpani for dramatic effect and a dash of e-bow here and there for atmosphere. This is one of my favorites on the record.

4. Blackbird on Fire An up-tempo toe tapper with a straight ahead beat that’s bound to get heads bopping. Nice dry drum sound throughout and clever guitar leads in the second verse. I like the choppy, chugging feel on this one. Reminds me of something The Be Good Tanyas or Frazey Ford would do. Another instant favorite.

5. The Great Escape This one’s a heart breaker, coming right out of the gate with those forlorn strings and sparse timpani. Not sure what the lyrics are about entirely but the lines “Going sideways, living high among the strays, drinking burgundy and lace, gonna capsize everyday or be replaced. So hard to be alone those days” suggest someone struggling with loneliness and perhaps addiction or self-destructive behavior. This one is heavy and heartfelt. Amelia’s voice even sounds like it’s teetering on the verge of breakdown toward the end.

6. Strangers After that last tear-jerker, this light, country flavored tune brightens up the atmosphere like a ray of sun breaking through dark rain clouds. I love those classic, tremelo-drenched electric leads–reminds me of Dwight Yoakam.

7. Soft Wooden Towers Uh oh. Here comes the rain again. More melancholy strings and gut-wrenching vocals. This one probably should have been placed a little further away from “The Great Escape.” Don’t get me wrong, this is beautiful, I’m just running out of tissues.

8. San Andreas Fault Picking up the mood with a nice march-inspired snare pattern in the intro. I absolutely love those group vocals and harmonies that come in at the end of each verse and in the chorus. You can hear the full range of voices in there from the lilting sopranos to those deep baritones. Another favorite.

9. In a Town (200 Days) I’m not sure if this is a leaving song or hometown song. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. Maybe both? Perhaps neither. This is just my interpretation after all. The brass section makes a return on this one with great results.

10. Face On The News Good call saving this one for last. A solid closer with a great theme and more brilliant lyrics. I love the way this song starts with just vocals and guitar and then the strings, brass and other instruments slowly build and come in to the arrangement. This one showcases Amelia’s incredible vocals which can be as vulnerable as they are powerful.

There you have it, my first impressions of Amelia Curran’s new album Spectators. Pick up this amazing new album for yourself on Friday at The Arts & Culture Centre and hear Amelia’s live renditions of these masterpieces.