SCQ Rating: 80%
In many ways, St. Catharines is a city constantly reevaluating itself. Surrounded by rural offshoots but dwarfed by neighbouring metropolises like Hamilton and Buffalo, the mid-sized “Garden City” continues to consolidate its reputation as a powerhouse behind two realms: the white collar Niagara School Board and the blue sweat pushing the manufacturing sector. Nonetheless, St. Catharines is also home to an independent scene that has been flourishing over the past decade; having first established nationally recognized outfits like Alexisonfire and Raising the Fawn, the annual SCENE Music Festival has also grown into a massively prolific one-day bash that would act as the musical climax for just about any city.
It’s the sort of conflicted place only a record like Relative Importance could come from; its soft nuances bundled with the no nonsense assuredness of a songwriter who knows his voice and exactly what he’s yearning to connect with. The clarity of that conviction comes across with ease on “Conveniently Yours”, a mid-tempo track bolstered by Federici’s multi-part harmonies and a pulse that begs to breath new life into rock-radio. As well equipped as his backing band sounds given the prospect of radio chart success, it’s the former quality – Federici’s voice – that anchors Relative Importance’s eight songs. “She Is Lost” and “True” would be highlights on the grounds of their arrangements alone – one, a steady and melodic tale of restlessness, the other a melancholic folk song – but Federici’s layered vocals overtop create an added dimension of harmonies that takes the traditional songwriter’s material to another level.
Since Relative Importance’s release in January, Federici’s voice has been venturing further and further from home. (According to his website, the record even cracked the Alternative Rock charts in Sinzig, Germany.) In spite of his growing reputation, little about these songs suggests that Paul Federici’s approach would change upon the doorstep of a bigger fan-base. When one hears this record in an intimate setting, it becomes clear that upgrading his sound might indeed prove counterproductive since Relative Importance’s heart lies in its grounded and restrained execution. Besides solid song-craft, it’s Federici’s quiet confidence that may just bring the disparate halves of his hometown together at last.