This Week's Featured Download
A Little Place in the Wilderness
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The story of the multi-layered, prolific Toronto scene is well documented at this point, with a galaxy of great artists like Stars, Metric, Do Make Say Think, Apostle of Hustle and Feist revolving around the super-group Broken Social Scene. Of the aforementioned, lush indie popsters Stars were probably the best known of the bunch before BSS broke big in 2003, and even without an association to this Canadian collective, would still be doing just fine today. This brings us to the second album from Memphis, a duo that features Stars songwriter/vocalist (and Broken Social Scene member) Torquil Campbell and his longtime friend Chris Dumont. A Little Place in the Wilderness is filled with the tranquil pop that makes Campbell’s main band so loved, but at the same time is also a pleasant divergence. Though the album is not as much of a drastic change as cohort Amy Milan’s folksy Honey from the Tombs, here, Campbell’s sensitive, book-smart lyricism is backed by leaner accompaniment than what you’d find on a Stars record, with Dumont’s gentle guitar strums and slide-work creating the dreamy atmosphere, and strings and horns replacing almost all of the twinkling electronics. (Guest musicians include Metric’s James Shaw and Josh Trager from the Sam Roberts Band.)
Sung with a voice that’s a cross between Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, Campbell’s soft, bittersweet melodies are instantly recognizable -- the bare-boned opening track “I Dreamed We Fell Apart” could be from a Stars unplugged session, if not for the electric guitar.
Though the album moves at a contemplative pace, it’s impossible not to get pulled in by his detailed stories of old friends and places. Whether the events which he recounts are true or not, you get the feeling that you’re paging through someone’s personal scrapbook. And while so many intimate affairs have the tendency to lull the listener to dreamland, Campbell and Dumont keep the arrangements interesting and shifting, from the playful jazz-inflected “Incredibly Drunk on Whiskey” to the fittingly eerie ambience of “A Ghost Story” to the spirited pop of “I’ll Do Whatever You Want.” A Little Place in the Wilderness proves Memphis to be more than just a moonlight project for two friends, and being a Stars and/or Broken Social Scene fan is not a prerequisite for thoroughly enjoying this album.
- Gerald Hammill