Posted by: Necci – Apr 19, 2012
It’s a rare occasion in which a band creates a record that simultaneously sounds like a solo album and a full on rockin’ masterpiece. But Adam & The Amethysts’ latest release, Flickering Flashlight (Kelp Records), is teetering on this precarious bridge - one that can often lead to an incoherent or misunderstood album. However, Montreal’s Adam & The Amethysts did not fall off this bridge with their latest release. The album remains tastefully lo-fi, while building on sounds to create swirling ethereal loops, all topped with a dollop of the beautiful harmonic voices of Adam Waito and Rebecca Lessard.
Flickering Flashlight is a thoughtful record; full of enough nostalgia, memories, Great Lake references, and sadness for all of Canada. But don't worry, Flashlight isn’t one of those Bright Eyes cry-athons, it’s really more of that nostalgic, good kind of sad, that makes you miss being a kid. The album touches on the “the trials and tribulations of life,” says Waito, speaking after their performance at The Republic on April 10. “The first record was very much about my hometown in northern Ontario, Thunder Bay. The most recent album touches a bit more on growing up in a small town, but also transitions to the city and starting life there.”
The band draws upon influences varying from Brian Wilson and “most pop music,” to bands from the Canadian psychedelic scene, and seemingly every folk band in between, melding them all into a tight, focused album. This could be in part due to their recording process. Everything was recorded at Waito’s home studio, giving them plenty of time to arrange and structure their songs, something Waito values highly. “The recording process is a big part of the songwriting process," he says. "The songs basically form in the process of recording. That goes for arranging and adding things to the recoding.”
Tracks like “Gitche Gumee Yeah Yeah” offer a different side from the softer, more folk-like songs at the beginning of the album, and show that Adam & The Amethysts are no one-trick pony. But even at the end of the 60’s-reminiscent psychedelic romp, their lo-fi nostalgia for the Great Lakes rings through. The next track, “Adam Called Me Over Christmas,” warranted the "is that you talking in third person" question, but in fact, it is about a different Adam. “We get that a lot,” Lessard added.
What shines most is Waito's songwriting – which perhaps comes from the fact he has been playing since age 12. While avoiding flashy guitar playing, every note is crystal clear and the songs flow flawlessly. Lessard fills the spaces with cello and keys, leaving just the right amount of space – something that Adam & The Amethysts know how to use well. When asked whether they considered filling out their sound with a full band, they said that they’ve tried that too. “I like that,” Adam says, “but I like the challenge of doing it as a two piece, fleshing out things in a creative way, and letting there be more space.” He also noted that “when we were a loud rock band, there wasn’t as much subtlety. It was less dynamic. It could be done better; it was just how we played together.”
Regardless, Flickering Flashlight shines as a lo-fidelity anthem to Canadian nostalgia, taking the listener from 21st century indie folkdom to the 60’s and back again. It ends with an 80’s dance ballad, “Dreaming,” which is one of the standout tracks. The album is definitely one for a long car ride. Even Lessard admits, “I like the idea of a car ride for the album. A lot of the songs are about road trips.”
By Will Hooper