Siskiyou – Siskiyou/Keep Away the Dead

Hey there, it’s been a while since I did an album review, so I thought I might do two at once.

I love a lot of Canadian artists, operating in all manner of musical styles, and a few of them happen to reside on the roster of Montreal’s Constellation Records. If you know anything about me, or have read this blog for long enough, you might have noticed that I like that label an obscene amount, so I won’t waffle on about it too much this time.

Anyway, placing my first Constellation order in some time at the start of this year, I decided to take a chance on some of their newer artists. Their site has whole tracks and albums available to stream these days, but I don’t really like to over-indulge in an album before even buying it, so I simply listened to a couple of tracks here and there across a range of releases to get a few different flavours. Siskiyou stood out for some reason, so I added their Sasquatch faced self-titled début to the cart.

That’s some fine pencil work there.

STREAM THIS FINE RECORD!

Siskiyou, released in 2010, turned out to be a lovely little find, full to the brim with honest hand-crafted snow-capped folksy goodness. Songwriter Colin Huebert has a plaintive sensibility that is effortlessly charming, and lends itself well to the simple stripped-down arrangements on show here.

Opening with the vaguely haunting Funeral Song is a bold choice, but it’s far from morose. Acoustic guitar and wavering slightly nervous vocals are the signature sound throughout the record, augmented with clattering percussion and flanked by just the right amount of orchestration. It’s hard not to be won over by the intimacy this record exudes. It sounds alive, present, and slightly fragile. It’s pretty lyrical, and I’m not just talking about the words – though my personal identification with the words of tracks like Hold It In certainly helped me fall in love with this band.

It’s All Going to End is a particular gem, with all the ebullience that you might expect from the likes of Akron/Family. There’s quite a few short tracks here like Useless Anymore and Inside of the Ocean that never really reach full-pace, while lengthy slow-burn Big Sur seems to dominate the latter half of the album. However, this uneven pacing seems like a key part of the ebb and flow of the record.

Having enjoyed Siskiyou so much, I decided to emigrate to Canada for a year.

(Just kidding. Though I will be doing that, I think it would be silly to base a major life decision on the strength of one little album. Two albums though…)

Let me try that again. Having enjoyed Siskiyou so much, and the other records in that Constellation package, I decided to order some more compact discs from their fine catalogue including this band’s second album, released in 2011.

Similarly minimal design to the first, but in a slightly different direction, you’ll note.

NOW ALSO STREAM THIS ONE!

Keep Away the Dead ploughs forward in a familiar aesthetic realm to the first, expanding the band and arrangements outward a little, yet thankfully retaining that peculiar vulnerability that I found so endearing on the debut. Again Huebert’s writing hits me in a soft place. If there’s any criticism to be made of the follow-up it’s how similar it is to the original. So given I thought that first one was pretty fantastic, I guess this second one should be right up my alley then? You’re damn right it is.

The title-track kicks things off in style, showing off a more confident and assured side to the band. This trend continues throughout, reaching a peak with the slightly off-kilter structure of Fiery Death, whose lo-fi demo-like intro suddenly cuts into the much grander production of the finished piece, punctuated with sudden short outbursts of chaos. Also included is a very nice cover of Neil Young’s Revolution Blues from On the Beach, the subject matter of which is a bit darker than Siskiyou’s usual wheelhouse. Still, it is a worthwhile interpretation of a classic.

Twigs and Stones is a lovely little number, that bounces along, while So Cold moves like a glacier, full of Sigur Rós-esque arctic chill. Overall this record seems more grounded and consistent, an impressive feat considering it’s actually painting from a broader musical palette.

That there’s my thoughts on Siskiyou, a band I cannot stop listening to now. And the best bit is, if you listened to this band, you probably wouldn’t get the impression they (and by extension me) were super-weird. In fact, I think this is a lovely band just about anyone could enjoy. Thanks Constellation. And thanks Canada. And thank you, for reading this if you did. And if you didn’t, thank you anyway. Whatever! SISKIYOU!

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