The Cape May – [Album]

Sunday, 25 November 2007

There's a dark pall that hangs over the world inhabited by The Cape May. Clinton St. John's slow shuffle of a voice on Glass Mountain Roads invites comparisons to Will Oldham, specifically his Superwolf collaboration with Matt Sweeney, all dour and emotive. The stories—and they are stories—in each track are inflected with the kind of hope that seems destined to fade into the bitter grind of unfulfilled promise. Guitar heroics and drum frenzies aren't going to be heard here; rather, each note feels carefully considered, like Hemingway's punctuation—more concerned with evoking a feeling than spelling it every detail.

The overarching feel on Glass Mountain Roads is loss—not so much of a person or people as a loss of connection. Rarely will you find a major key; instead, the Canadian three-piece traffics in odd time signatures and tweaked minor-key guitar- and basslines with a repetitive, building nature that feels like early Pavement. On songs that do have moments of a happier sound, like “Copper Tied,” it's inevitably accompanied by distortion that seems to temper the joy, and the verses soon slip back into despair. There's also a tinge of the fantastical in “Spring Flight to the Land of Fire” which can lead to the belief that not only is The Cape May's view of the world is far from being rosy, it very well could be through warped glass.

It's not a sing-along album to be sure, being far more suited to solitary night drives than celebrations. But it grows on you—when you are shuffling through your collection and pass The Cape May, you can't help but think “Yeah, I kinda want to listen to that.” Memories of songs like “Mari,” “Still Island” and “Spider's Heart Attack,” (rather than the songs themselves) are what get stuck in your head, making the album seem new yet familiar every time you listen to it. It also has the benefit of fending on twin powerful notes, with “Desert House” and “Butcher's Son” taking the wound up energy from earlier tracks and releasing it in blasts of distortion and lyrical violence. It all adds up to the idea that The Cape May is a sleeping giant with disturbed dreams that you do, in fact, want to wake up.

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