Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mount Benson - Apollo Ghosts

Mount Benson

Apollo Ghosts

SCQ Rating: 73%

Around this time of year, when mild breezes beckon our windows open and sunny days convince us to wander the outdoors underdressed, an album will usually arrive bearing extroverted tunes with a classic-rock veneer. At first its arrival may seem commonplace, its chugging electric guitars merely conventional, but this annual occurrence of an album awakens the side of me summer left behind and, in every song, I hear its buoyant chords from the Muskoka chair in my mind. Mount Benson, the sophomore full-length by B.C. natives Apollo Ghosts, earns my bid for 2010’s Cottage Get-away Record.

With that imaginary award now on the table, I feel the need to make clear that beneath Apollo Ghosts’ indie-rock tones of warm guitar, nothing about Mount Benson is conventional. Littering thirteen songs over the course of twenty-five minutes and having most undergo sudden structural upheavals, the trio of Adrian Teacher, Amanda Panda and Jay Oliver would seem intent on sabotaging themselves if these songs weren’t so damn addictive! ‘Hub City’ and ‘Charms of Cars’ feature Pavement’s spindly-wired guitar bits and slacker pacing, not to mention Teacher’s vocals which range from a ponderous Stephen Malkmus to an unleashed, DIY holler. These fun-loving exercises in off-kilter rock are tempered by the Belle & Sebastian-esque ‘To a Friend Who Has Been Through a War’ and ‘Brown To Grey’, a disarmingly succinct boy/girl duet. Both are poignant reminders that Apollo Ghosts get by just fine without the electric juice. All of these stylistic departures would get tiresome if it sounded as though Apollo Ghosts put effort into them, but every swing of the compass needle occurs at such an organic level, you hardly double-take when ‘Things You Go Through’ delivers a straight-forward anthem anyone can relate to.

In fact, of the many pools cannonballed throughout Mount Benson, Teacher & Co. never sound out of their element or against the current of better judgement. Some listeners will commend such versatility while others will wish Apollo Ghosts had committed themselves to fleshing out some of their many flash-in-the-pan moments of genius. As someone stuck between these two opinions, I still insist that Mount Benson benefits from its relentless, if haphazard, idea-plucking. Being blindsided by a swift assault of clever lyrics and burrowed emotion will always supersede getting what you expect and, if you feel the same way, Mount Benson might just be your new favourite album. Cottage or no cottage.

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