Reviews

Adam & the Amethysts present the past

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Flickering Flashlight

Adam & the Amethysts

Release Date: Mar 27, 12

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We citizens of the USA largely underestimate our northern neighbor, Canada, in all aspects. For one thing, it’s massive. That means lots of people. That also means lots of artists of all media. And for Adam Waito, that meant he could capture his personal Canadian life through music. As Adam & the Amethysts, Waito, along with Rebecca Lessard on cello and back-up vocals and Scott Gailey on bass, recorded their latest album Flickering Flashlight in a 5’ x 8’ apartment to recall nostalgia in his shift from small-town Thunder Bay, Ontario to big-city Montreal. In effect, the album is a beautifully comforting collection of tracks-like-memories, but isn’t anything yet you haven’t heard before.

Opener “Tall Tall Building” sets you in a concert hall, or theatre, as if you’re listening to an orchestra warm up for the first 48 seconds. Quickly, once the guitar comes picking away, you’re transported – even though Waito’s vocals that follow contain the same concert hall echo affect. The sound is like the sleepy affect of (surprise!) amethyst purple.

But then we break away from this whole deal entirely as the second track “Prophecy” spins out a campy, beachy, Marley-esque kind of optimism which, if the solitude of the previous track was more your thing, could make you a little wary of listening to the rest of the album, let alone the 4:37 of the song. “Try not to get worried, try not to get turned onto problems that upset you” should have you thinking along the lines of early Dispatch but done in the style of Frightened Rabbit.

And then we face a piano tune, catchy and sickly rhythmic along Waito and Lessard’s harmony for “The Country.” It sounds like a sunny day in a dusty attic, on your way to ride your bike over gravel paths through tall-grass fields. The steady shake and string accompaniment add just the right touch. You can stay young here with Lessard’s lofty childlike echo.

On title track “Flickering Flashlight,” the same nostalgia of a 60s vinyl is present, despite the fact that the recordings remain clear, sans any of that artificial record-scratch sound you can find as a popular gloss. Here, the quick repetition of the words, in tones that start high and end low, you can’t help but think, as a debatable background crackle (Leaves? Match burning? Crumpling tissue paper?) shortly appears, forcing you to wonder of its origin. And you may just end up with prophetic visions of Wes Anderson’s upcoming film.

But then it’s unavoidable – “Gitche Gumee Yeah Yeah” just has to conjure images of “Lady Marmalade,” Christina Aguilera and Lil’ Kim splayed around in burlesque. Except Waito’s little ditty here is more Fatboy Slim with the clearly-thematic nostalgic sheen wiped all over. Again, think of that psychedelic era of original vinyl recordings. Maybe you should even tie a string around your forehead like a headband and light some incense to really get into the mood. That’s not a bad idea (nagchampa if you’re into clichés).

I have to mention “Adam Called Me Over Christmas.” For one thing, it immediately confuses me before even listening because if Adam is singing then who is calling over Christmas? Another Adam? Possible, possible. This could be “the ballad” of the album, slow and storylike, sad in the fact that it recalls the past. Vomiting and mystery-Adam’s mom yelling and him apologizing to singer-Adam’s sister all lend a plot akin to an Antlers agony. I want to know this story and these people. This is like seeing a trailer but never the movie. And it makes me want to see the finished film.