by devonsp

Devon Sproule’s seventh record sees her partnering fellow Ontarian (now living in Nova Scotia) Mike O’Neill – songwriter/actor and formerly one half of pop combo The Inbreds. The partnership was formed after Mike submitted a contribution to Sproule’s ‘Low Key Karaoke’ YouTube project, where she lays down harmonies and invites others to harmonise along with her, splicing together the results. A beautifully judged version of The Beach Boys’ ‘In my Room’ is one of the outcomes from that collaboration, as well as the Everley’s ‘Crying in the Rain’.

On the face of it then, a link up between O’Neill’s catchy pop and Sproule’s country/roots/jazz-inflected whimsy is a positive proposition, and what emerges here is something profoundly good natured and mellow. Echoes of the refined relaxedness of Kings of Convenience and the laid back vibe of The Beach Boys ‘Friends’ make this a likeable and liveable-with record.

An ace Toronto based band, produced by Constellation’s Sandro Perri and featuring Doug Tielli and Dan Fortin amongst others, give a solid natural twang to the record, with some great guitar work and wobbly lo-fi synth courtesy of Thom Gill. It is a development of the sound world of Sproule’s more immediate last two records – I Love You, Go Easy and Don’t Hurry for Heaven, but interspersed with a more poppy Sixties feel on the songs showing more of O’Neill’s influence.

Opener ‘You Can Come Home’ feels like a door opening to a familiar friend, a cool bass and guitar driven work out, on the joys of taking things easy. Late in the song, a hint of synthesiser adds a new layer as the sound builds. Next, ‘Magic in the Panic’ opens with O’Neill on the vocals, a meandering melody, and distracted pastoral harmony with Sproule – their voices a perfect match.

‘You Can’t Help It’ brings us back to Sproule and a guitar driven sound, a poppy chorus and sketched in harmonies, with a gorgeous lo-fi guitar solo. ‘Colours’, an outing for both voices, gives a nod to the Everleys in an additive hook driven pop song, with a gorgeous rasping synth at its centre. ‘The Fan’ evokes languid summer heat, while ‘Nobody Tells me a Thing’, is a fabulously wobbly lament by Sproule with some great guitar work. ‘The Fire Inside’ is a hopelessly catchy pure pop duet, the album ending with ‘The Shallow End’ a reflective singing-bass driven song that summarises the whole atmosphere of this album – delicate sketches of sound picking out a mood.

At first listen, this record seems rather low key, but as it goes on the sound reveals itself as spacious and inviting. Like a quiet but determined old dog that insinuates its way into your life without trying too hard and ends up getting all of your affection, this is a record for warm summer days (or thinking about them) and abandoned relaxation.