Album Review: THE REST – Seesaw
Hamilton’s THE REST have been through a lot in the process of releasing their new LP, Seesaw. Firstly, just as the band was preparing to record the album, their friend – and producer of the band’s earlier recordings – unexpectedly passed away.
Secondly, after deciding to go ahead with recording in the converted church studio of said producer as a mark of respect, a technical glitch at the end of the sessions saw the band lose every second of their recordings. After a company responsible for aircraft black box recovery extracted the digital copies of their third album, the first batch of physical CDs that were pressed contained only the sound of static.
“Lesser beings may have taken all of these events as omens and abandoned the project, but not the seven members of THE REST.”
Lesser beings may have taken all of these events as omens and abandoned the project, but not the seven members of THE REST. The band maintains that they felt this was the album they needed to make, and throughout the time their recordings were lost in a void, they didn’t start writing a new album or re-recording. On listening to Seesaw it’s obvious why – this is an exceptional album.
All things have aligned favourably when it comes to the sound of this record. Style-wise, THE REST on Seesaw in parts resemble fellow Canadian greats BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE and ARCADE FIRE, parts GRIZZLY BEAR, and parts MY BLOODY VALENTINE; the songs themselves well-written and attention-sustaining. The ambience of the church studio compliments their dense and atmospheric compositions, and although the saddening loss the band experienced should definitely not be called ‘favourable’, the emotion that must have been present during recording has given these songs a deep sincerity and sophistication that makes Seesaw comparable to any of THE REST’s more well known indie rock contemporaries.
The album’s first song, Who Knows, begins the release promisingly. THE REST’s indie-chamber-pop elements, like their extensive percussion section and strings, mixed with electronic tinges and ’90s-inspired guitars and slow but driving pace are combined effectively here to create a building intensity and sense of joy. And that is something that is evident throughout the whole album; though the circumstances around the making of this album may have been bleak, there is a real sense of optimism seeping from these songs.
Hey! For Horses continues where Who Knows left off, albeit in a more upbeat manner. Always On My Mind however slows things down, and through the fuzzed-out and reverb-ridden guitars shows an even more obvious throwback to ’90s shoegaze stylings.
“Though the circumstances around the making of this album may have been bleak, there is a real sense of optimism seeping from these songs.”
Laughing Yearning picks up the pace again and channels a tropicalia/indie-world-rock vibe (think VAMPIRE WEEKEND). The dense and atmospheric mood of John Huston continues into Could Be Sleeping, whose hauntingly-sung vocals and emotional output could easily teeter on depressive but instead channels a more elated path, and builds to a reverb-heavy ending.
Lodger has a relaxed, hymn-like quality, which contrasts with the upbeat and playful rock of Young and Innocent. Last Day seems to relax the pace again, however it also sees the ’90s guitars return, and the guitars and drums push the song along into Slumber, the album’s aptly titled 6/8 vintage-piano and clarinet-featuring delicate wind-down lullaby.
Overall the album has a more dreamy and atmospheric sound than THE REST’s previous recordings, and this really works well for the band. Seesaw also displays slow, upbeat, fun, poignant and affecting moments – it’s versatile. Just when a trend is forming, the next song changes the mood completely and shows off another appealing side to the band. The multitude of instruments, the soaring vocals, the dense layering and reverb, and elegant chamber-pop heard on this album are all complementary to each other and contribute to the versatility the band is able to achieve.
Seesaw is a fitting title for this release, considering both the versatility of the album and the ups-and-downs the band experienced in making it. The LP is full of epic, climactic, affecting songs that would not seem out of place on the next big indie movie’s soundtrack. It is an impressive release and will hopefully garner the attention it deserves, because – if the right audience hears it – Seesaw surely means big things ahead for THE REST.