BY MIKE SHANLEY
With three albums out now under her own name, Kathryn Calder has built up a volume of music strong enough to eclipse her role in the New Pornographers. Are You My Mother (2010) and Bright and Vivid (2011) featured Calder’s sweet voice wrapped in layers of gauzy echo, surrounded by music that combines ambience and moody pop. Lyrically they both sounded upbeat and hopeful, though both dealt with feelings of loss and recovery.
For her self-titled third album, Calder took an Eno-esque approach to composing. She created atmospheres with keyboards and fashioned songs around them. The results frequently have fairly simple foundations of a few repeated chords. “Slow Burning,” begins the album with the statement, “Come show me something I can’t see,” which could be either a personal challenge or an outer appeal. The song serves more as extended intro rather than an opening statement, never rising above a calm murmur. “Beach” keeps things understated and intimate, with a metronomic drumbeat and clarinet added to the synths. Then Calder shifts gears in the organ-driven pure pop of “Take a Little Time,” with synth horns floating over a chugging bassline that feels infectious for all the right reasons.
Calder balances the rest of the album between slower tracks with brighter ones, on about a 2:1 ratio. The somber feelings of “Song in Cm” and “Arm in Arm” are answered by the synth bass-drive of “My Armour.” “When You See My Blood” actually takes it both ways, rising to a dramatic climax that’s worth the wait. And regardless of the tempo, Calder continues to show a knack for rich vocal melodies that make sure none of these tracks sound merely like a simple ideas trying to pass themselves off as songs. The real nuances come out when this music is heard closely on headphones, but even when they blare out of speakers, there is something alluring to grab the ear and pull you in.
DOWNLOAD: “Take a Little Time,” “Pride by Design.”