Thursday, November 16
It used to be (and sometimes still is) that the very idea of "side-projects" induced a sort of collective "eyebrow-raising effect" in music listeners everywhere. If you were a fan of the original artist/band, you would naturally worry that said side-project might be the beginning of the end for that entity. At the very least, the artistic integrity of said entity (must stop writing "said"; must stop writing "entity") would necessarily be compromised, what with time and creative constraints, etc.
Lately, though, it seems that there have been a number of successful collaborations and crossovers. Certainly, the various members of the New Pornographers have proved quite adept at juggling their responsibilities both within the group and without. Ben Gibbard has somehow found the requisite time and energy to drive a cab for Cutie (whoever the hell "Cutie" is) while simultaneously moonlighting for the Postal Service. And, of course, Dave Grohl will happily serve as monkey-drummer to any organ grinder who comes a courtin'.
Well, now it's Torquil Campbell's turn.
"Uh... Torquil WHO?" you may ask. That would be Torquil Campbell, who, along with the better-known Amy Millan, serves as front-person for the Canadian indie-pop group Stars. Mr. Campbell linked up with American Chris Dumont back in 2003 to form Memphis, a highly pleasant electronic/folk/pop amalgam that's less interested in knocking your socks off than in peeling them off you, inch-by-inch (which is not to suggest that they have some sort of foot fetish or anything, but... well... never mind....). Anyway, Memphis released their first record, I Dreamed We Fell Apart, in 2004, but, outside of Canada (and maybe even INSIDE of Canada), I'm not sure that all that many people heard it.
That can potentially be rectified with the upcoming American and European release of their second album, A Little Place in the Wilderness (look for it in early 2007, or, if you live or are visiting Canada, pick it up in your local record shop right now). Fans of Stars should understand that Memphis does the music-thing just a little bit differently. There's less emphasis here on verse-chorus-verse songcraft and more on gentle-but-never-static soundscapes. Apparently, the LP was recorded during a Canadian winter, and it has that feel to it. The instrumentation and arrangements may be subtle, but they're hardly sparse. And the music, in general, may have a cool efficiency to it, but there is an undeniably warm subcurrent to the work that seems -- dare I say -- downright "hopeful." Seems safe to say: Canadians and Americans alike long for those first green leaves of spring. This is the soundtrack to that longing.
Memphis on MySpace.
[MP3] "I'll Do Whatever You Want"
[MP3] "A Little Place in the Wilderness"