Published Mar 18, 2014The future of Keiffer McLean is sure to be exciting. The 20-year-old, having already been a nominee for the Canadian Folk Music Award for "Young Performer of the Year," is full of youthful exuberance on his first full-length album, Drama in the Attic. The impressively mature McLean has decorated a uniquely floral soundscape with blooming trumpet accents and florid west-coast guitars.
The most notable aspect of Drama in the Attic is its campfire intimacy, doubtlessly affected by the family involvement of McLean's father Robert and great uncle Allan Muirhead on percussion and trumpet, respectively. McLean's advanced musings recollect universal experiences of love and family from a modern point of view with all of the apprehensive angst of early adulthood. The earthy undertones of growing are present throughout as McLean observes aging from both affected and unaffected perspectives.
Separate from themes of growth and decay are offerings like "Winter" and "Slow-Mo Ocean" that demonstrate the broad spectrum of unique instrumentation present on the album. Trumpets accent McLean's melodies on "Jive Turkey," while Jack Johnson-style acoustic riffs introduce almost every song.
Then there is of course the radio-friendly "Headful of Diamonds," which is by far the most contagious track. McLean's funnelled vocals begin in a removed reverberation, steadily brought into focus over the progression of an interacting melody of trumpet, toy piano and walking double bass. The bittersweet love song is alternative folk at its most infectious, with the pop shading bound to have the listener whistling the tune well before they know the words.
Keiffer McLean's surf-adjacent style is so west coast that it's surprising to discover that the long blonde-haired songwriter is from Regina, Saskatchewan. Adding to the bewilderment is McLean's age and composure. The composition of the album is steeped in tone and riff experimentation made impressive by his ability to craft a fascinating song without distancing the listener. McLean's talent begs to be displayed, and unfortunately he does himself a disservice by not exploring his vocal range. Still, the future of the Canadian alt-folk music is safe in the hands of McLean who, judging from the strength of this album, has plenty left to give. (Independent)