Published May 21, 2009A strong current runs below Sunparlour Players' sophomore album, Wave North, and frontman Andrew Penner hopes it will drag you in. "It feels like there's an undertow of conflict," he says. "It's not necessarily positive or negative, it's just asking whoever's listening to engage in it."
No worries there. From floods to feuds to nuclear meltdowns, Wave North's lyrical themes are undeniably engaging. But while the folk rock trio tackle big issues, Penner keeps his songs grounded in the landscape around his childhood home: a farm near the shores of Lake Erie. "I like to make things as personal as possible because through doing that it usually gets more universal," he says.
In fact, the literal currents of Erie act as the album's centerpiece; the sweeping, anthemic "Point Pelee Is The Place To Be!" chronicles boyhood summers spent swimming in the deceptively peaceful lake, which has a history of shipwrecks and tragedy.
Erie's capricious temperament is mirrored in the dynamics of Penner's songwriting style. Hammering drums and piano make the heart pound, while glockenspiel acts as a delicate foil to the din. Just as a song hits its crest the band pulls back, with banjo or the warm swell of cello providing a soothing respite. The music's powerful ebb and flow has a magnetic pull.
"We were always told 'people have drowned, don't go swimming anywhere near the Point.'" says Penner. "It's this beautiful place with this deadly undertow. It wasn't a negative thing, either, for us, as kids. It was this gothic, exciting thing. This stuff is dangerous, maybe that makes it a little more fun."