What is it about Figure Walking that rattles bones? Why is The Big Other, full with plaintive power chords and yowling harmonies, so reassuring?
It's a debut that commands attention from a duo of long-time collaborators: ten songs built around Rob Gardiner's uncompromising percussion and Greg MacPherson's powerful and sometimes dissonant six-string. It transcends head-banging prairie rock, though it is that. The formula of drummer and singing guitarist is refreshed by MacPherson's poignant pen and grieving guitar alongside Gardiner's epidemic of punk drums. Every element cries out that the world is not just, not fair, and yet it's ours. A broken system that quietly favours the privileged over the vulnerable is perpetuated by the denial of an imbalance. The illusion of change is not enough, in fact it's another detractor from true transformation.
Those familiar with the songwriting will recognize MacPherson's passion for social justice and vivid imagery. "Another little sister went missing last night," he cries on "Victorious," a line meant to bruise even those who turn a blind eye to missing and murdered Indigenous women. MacPherson insists that victory is her birthright, and for those who have suffered again and again. "The Country," which covers a ruralite's yearn for the "solitude, secrets and sin," lines up with the seasonal themes and atmospheric tunes of "Summer Haze" and "Spring Thaw" that all define life in Manitoba.
Shedding an indie folk identity attached to his eponymous band, MacPherson has defined his darker dance tunes as a true team-up with Gardiner. The band might as well ask Hailey Primrose to join. She owns the tale of a doomed reunion/make-out session on "Singapore," and also sings with Izzy Goloch and Zorya Arrow at the end of the upbeat "Funeral" with a resigned contentment that death can come at any time, that life goes on. "Let's just try to celebrate / dance until this all makes sense," they cheer.
An emotional release punches out from the anthems of "Sounds" and "Victorious." Every track elicits dancing or tears, but it's these two pieces that urge listeners to put up a fight, to refuse, to lean in — to persist. The result is almost a relief, like there's liberation hardwired into these songs that could wake even the most comatose from his or her complacency. (Disintegration)