So there’s this thing where I’m dumb and masochistic and decided that instead of doing one post listing my favorite ten or fifteen albums of the year, I’m going to do A POST EVERY DAY until the end of the year, each one highlighting the next in my list of favorites. This may not end well. But I’m excited about the idea right now, so I have to try. Since I’m posting them all separate instead of as a huge list, I’ll note the trends I noticed here: 1) Bands I’ve loved for a long time coming out with new albums I love as much or more than their previous work. No slackers or disappointments this year, really. 2) New or new-to-me bands coming out of nowhere and overwhelming me with awesome. Last year only one album snuck on my list at the end of the year; this year several did. 3) Canadian and Los Angeles bands. Even LA bands I didn’t know where LA bands until I became a fan, so I can’t credit it to hometown bias. 4) Female singers. That’s been pretty constant with me for a few years, though. Okay, let’s get to it!
#15. Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?
Kathryn Calder is often relegated to status as “the girl in The New Pornographers who isn’t Neko Case,” but that’s hardly fair. She’s also their full-time keyboardist, backup singer all the time, sings Neko’s parts on tour when Neko can’t join them, and on the last couple of albums has done a lot of second and first vocals of her own. She may not have Neko’s brazen power, but she’s got a lovely voice and certainly deserves the greater prominence that The New Pornos are starting to give her.
Releasing her first solo album this year can only help with her reputation, because it’s a very fine debut that foregrounds both her pure vocals and her substantial piano skills, while being so vastly different in sound from The New Pornos that it allows her to establish her own songwriting style and sound.
The opening track “Slip Away” (also the first single) is a great example of the rest of the album – it starts off very quiet and spare with a single piano line and vocal backed by hand claps as percussion, then moves into an exuberant and fully orchestrated chorus of pure vocals, no words. Moving back and forth between these two is exhilarating, and Kathryn handles both with ease, as she will handle both wildly uptempo songs like “Castor and Pollux” and very self-contained numbers through the rest of the album. Overall it’s a pretty light and poppy album, but with enough subtle melancholia that it feels perfect for those days when you’re enjoying a cup of hot cocoa and watching the rain drip down the window.
Plus the videos so far are wonderful animated affairs (in different styles), both starring the same bunny that appears on the album cover. I kind of hope they do videos for the rest of the songs and include the bunny in all of them. That would be awesome.