Waver by Royal Canoe
Coming off a two and a half year gap between their last studio album and their now third EP, Winnipeg’s electronic indie pop six piece band, Royal Canoe, released ‘Waver’ on January 25th, 2019. Fronted by Matt Peters, and accompanied by guitarist Bucky Driedger, keyboardist Matt Schellenberg, double trouble drummers Derek Allard and Michael Jordan, and bassist Brendan Berg, this large group likes to put their own spin on a sound that is reminiscent of other electronic pop powerhouses like Animal Collective, and make their own small niche of the genre in a similar fashion to a very vocally recognizable Tame Impala, just with less mainstream reception. Getting over some gear troubles in 2016, after their trailer full of $82,000 worth of equipment was stolen in Quebec, through a fan supported crowdfund and a crowdful of fan support, this quickly rising Canuck band is back and brings a new spin to an older favourite.
Immediately capturing their signature sound of harmonious layered vocals, distorted slightly by some light electronic soundscape, the first track “What’s Left in the River” sets the tone of the album with an almost sultry repetition of the line “let’s wash what’s left in the river”, as the music is left mostly suspended as the overlaid vocals take charge. What this album tends to do as it carries on however, is to entrap its listener with its catchy and strong pop vibes, but sneak in a more somber and dark contrast in its lyrics to the more focused ear. Seemingly speaking to regrets, a slowly forgotten but deep love, or an ode of pure and raw emotion of the fear of abandonment, Royal Canoe paddles away from their last two full length works and into a place that has clearly moved on from the youngful innocence of their earlier compilations.
Packing a punch with the first few songs, ‘Waver’ feels a bit like a road trip; it establishes its vitality early, you’re ready and excited to be going on a long-awaited vacation and you start strong with fresh anticipation of the ride ahead. It eventually takes you around some windy roads with ‘May 17’ and its impassioned and nostalgic reminisce about an old but slowly forgotten love, and begins to start to slow with ‘Ashes, Ashes’. Nnamdi Ogbonnya comes in as a dynamic feature, really pulling you out of the already familiar sounds and lyrical repetition from the band, acting as the sibling in the backseat who takes you out of your inevitable lull of boredom with some short-lived game of eye spy, but as all road trips do, it begins to take its toll and you start feeling each minute pass -- the middle of the album fails to distinguish itself ot energize. Once you start seeing the signs leading up to your destination, slowly watching the distance to the end shrink with each dotted yellow line streaking by, ‘Don’t’ lets the album finish off with strength, providing an ode to the heavy electronic pop that started off the journey and making you almost forget about the monotonous parts, letting you enjoy the trip as a whole and ready to do it all over again.
For a more casual fan, the album isn’t a complete triumphant and lends itself to relying too much on the crunchy choruses and vocals that Royal Canoe is known for at times, but there are a number of songs that fit with ease in to slightly eclectic electronic indie pop playlist and has a couple tracks that would seamlessly suit some indie radio time. Overall, it’s great to see the band continuing to try out newer wavelengths, but keeping their fundamental sounds intact as they explore soundscapes and take on you on a pretty pleasant road trip while doing it.