Canada’s Factor Program, wherein artists – including many indie musicians – get state funding for their work, hasn’t just produced a bunch of Toronto- or Montreal-based, Broken Social Scene (QRO spotlight on)-related, Arts & Crafts label acts. It’s helped give breath to bands from Nova Scotia to Victoria Island, and helped build music scenes in the Atlantic Provinces, Canadian prairies & Pacific Northwest, not just either side of Ottawa. But those bands still have trouble breaking south of the border in the States, and they can’t blame the language barrier (eh…). Hopefully one that will is Vancouver’s Parlour Steps, thanks to their latest alt-pop gem, The Hidden Names.
After three albums that only saw release in the Great White North, Parlour Steps finally got some U.S. attention last year, when they moved to Nine Mile Records and released Ambiguoso. The Hidden Names picks up where Ambiguoso left off, but is even nicer, thanks to the addition of keyboardist Alison Maira. The balance of bright skies and broken hearts is as fine-tuned as that of the male/female vocals between guitarist/songwriter Caleb Stull and bassist Julie Bavalis. If only a few songs really stand out, such as the top-tapping up-cheer irony of opener "As the World Turned Out", or the powerful, emotional press-pop of "Ring That Bell", that’s only because the album is just a leveled accomplishment, from start to finish.
Canadian indie music has been big for so long now (okay, five or six years, but that’s a lifetime in indie-rock…) that the Factor Program seems to have almost outdone & outlived its purpose (and at least one Conservative MP did try to kill it, though that was because it supported a band named ‘Holy Fuck’ – QRO album review – but then the ever-artistic Quebec objected to any cut in the arts, Holy Fuck was nominated for last year’s Polaris Music Prize, and this year’s prize was won by won Fucked Up – QRO photos…). But it’s actually still very relevant, as there’s a whole lot more up there that needs to be heard down here.
MP3 Stream: "Ring That Bell"