What I’ve recently come to realize is that the music of today simply doesn’t seem to appreciate the power that the male falsetto voice can have on an audience. The falsetto once won over the hearts of many in the past (here I cite the success of the Bee Gees), yet over the years it’s become neglected. Today it seems to be viewed as a dated musical technique, a fact which I personally view as a travesty… a good falsetto can move millions! However, for those of you who love a good falsetto as much as I do, I bring good news: falsetto is making a serious comeback (see Bon Iver, Baths, or Grouplove)!
The music of Winnipeg’s six-piece group, Royal Canoe, aims to constantly push the boundaries of the indie and pop genres through their unique sound. This sound is both refreshing and unexpected, and I attribute the majority of Royal Canoe’s musical success to their stunning vocal ability – the falsetto! – which is catchy, sexy, and captivating.
The group’s newest album, Purple and Gold, is currently available in digital form on the band’s bandcamp, and will be available in physical form on October 9th of this year. The release features two new singles, “Show Me Your Eyes” and “Summersweat,” as well as a remix of “Show Me Your Eyes” from Tim “DJ Co-op” Hoover and a remix of “Summersweat” from Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother.
After having this album spin on repeat for the past week, which is quite a feat considering that the entire album is only four songs long, I’ll admit that I’ve completely fallen in love with the artistry and originality that Royal Canoe displays (I also blame that surprisingly sexy falsetto for playing a role in this addiction). The first song, “Show Me Your Eyes,” begins with a toe-tapping hook made up of mainly drums and tambourine, then adds to the rhythm with an electric guitar riff, and then a few seconds later, that falsetto comes in. Throughout the song, a variety of other instruments are used, such as the keyboards and bass, which all marry together into a really pleasing sound. When the myriad of sounds become a bit chaotic and too much to handle, everything stops for a beat, and then just one or two instruments resume. The overall effect is a refreshingly unique pop/indie hybrid. I have to admit that I nothing bad to say about “Show Me Your Eyes.” Although the song is fairly repetitive in its lyrical content, this song is nowhere near predictable. There’s enough variety in rhythm and use of instruments throughout the song to keep it interesting and keep the listener on his or her toes.
The second song on this album, “Summersweat,” is the more sensual counterpart to “Show Me Your Eyes.” The tempo is much slower and the use of instruments is minimal so the vocals are able to rise up as the main star. This creates a sense of intimacy and passion: you are alone with that sexy falsetto. There is also more lyrical variety in this track than there was in “Show Me Your Eyes,” which is nice to hear. The only negative thing I have to say about this track is that it goes on for a bit too long. Towards the end of the song, it ends up feeling a bit repetitive and almost gets a bit boring. If “Summersweat” were about 30 seconds shorter, it would be the perfect length, but as it is, I find myself wishing it ends sooner than it does.
Now for the two remixes on the album. I think that Tim “DJ Co-op” Hoover’s version of “Show Me Your Eyes” is very close to the original track in tune and rhythm, so close in fact that I wonder what the point of including it in this album is. To be fair, I will say that Hoover adds some beats that seem to go well with the overall feel of the song. At the same time, however, he unfortunately alters the quality of the vocals, changing them from a falsetto into something that sounds autotuned. This ultimately ruins the vocals (which I feel are the best thing Royal Canoe has going for them) by taking away from the power of the falsetto that was so refreshing in the original. As for Ryan Guldemond’s version of “Summersweat,” I think that this is definitely the more successful of the two remixes. Guldemond stays true to the intimacy and the passion that the original had, even keeping hints of the vocals intact. He also makes the song more upbeat overall and thus effectively eliminates the problem that I saw with the original being too boring. While I like both of the remixes well enough, I think that Royal Canoe’s versions are much better. I believe that Purple and Gold would be a much more successful album if it were comprised of only Royal Canoe’s two originals.
All things considered, I find Purple and Gold to be a successful album. Royal Canoe marries so many different musical genres and instruments into a final hybridized product which just plain works. They enlist a variety of instruments in unison, but understand that listening to music this dense and layered can be taxing. Therefore, they take great care in limiting the intensity of the instruments at times, and for this I thank Royal Canoe profusely. No matter how often I listen to these two songs, I hear something different each time, and it’s that complexity and intrigue that keeps me coming back. Of course, the main weapon in Royal Canoe’s arsenal is the falsetto, which is reinvented and re-purposed into something modern. I think it’s safe to say that not since the bygone days of the Bee Gees has falsetto been this sexy, catchy, or successful. The rhythm, instruments, and unique artistic style all work together to create this beautiful and original product, Purple and Gold.
Do you want to see Royal Canoe live?! You’re in luck: Royal Canoe’s current North American tour includes a stop in Edmonton! Royal Canoe will be playing at the Artery with Edmonton’s own Mitchmatic on September 28 (doors open at 8 pm). Tickets are still available at YEGlive.ca!