Sunparlour Players

The Living Proof

BY Kristin CavoukianPublished Apr 4, 2014

When Sunparlour Players released their first album in 2007, they were a trio in a scene full of ten-person bands, and easily filled stages and albums with a full band's worth of sound. Now a duo, Toronto musicians Andrew Penner and Michael "Rosie" Rosenthal continue that fine tradition on their fourth album, The Living Proof.

The record starts with the biting garage attack of "Soapbox" and eases into the warm, acoustic-led "For This I Can't Be Sure" and "By Your Side." Penner's evocative yet open-ended lyrics lend themselves to interpretation but also pay homage to his Leamington, Ontario upbringing. "Nain Rouge" revisits the city of Detroit, a familiar locale in Penner's songs, and the final track, "Bless This City," captures the mood of failing and scandal-plagued towns on both sides of the border. His farm country roots and penchant for preserves show on "How to Make Ginger Bourbon Apple Butter," which is exactly what the name suggests: a recipe, narrated by Hugh Oliver over Rhea Brandenburg's delightfully out-of-tune piano.

Thoughtful instrumentation and rich vocal harmonies bring the best out in these songs. Glockenspiel, stomps and hand claps, so often overused, are added here in just the right places, while spare banjo is paired with a rich snare drum sound on "Erie Lake Moses," a song reminiscent of something the Rheostatics might have penned. And thanks to artful mixing and mastering (Chris Stringer, Fedge), heavier tracks like "Almanac" punctuate the mood without overpowering softer songs.

The result is a bold display of Sunparlour Players' passionate songwriting and delivery, and a great album.

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