Yes, the Apostle's latest is artsy. But rather than overemphasize his eagerness to tweak convention, head Hustler Andrew Whiteman (of Broken Social Scene fame) presents his quirks with a warmth and subtlety that's as low-key as it is effective.
There's plenty of post-rootsiness on display here, with nearly every tune employing riffs that use the blues and/or assorted Latin styles as starting points, not destinations. However, Whiteman and his cohorts never let self-consciousness get in the way of a good tune. "Fast Pony for Victor Jara" may feature Spanish lyrics, tempo shifts and an I-went-to-grad-school moniker, but it also serves up lyrical guitar solos and an arrangement that's rich with atmosphere. Likewise, "Cheap Like Sebastien" juxtaposes occasionally opaque lines such as "Substitute status for strata" with gentle tick-tock rhythms, sinuous organ and genial la-las from guest vocalist Lisa Lobsinger. And if the title track's lyrics speak of seafaring tragedy, the waves of melody keep the tune moving under full steam.
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Although this National Anthem is more understated than most, it still deserves a salute.