There’s something about being stuck in the snow and dark that makes some pretty cool sounds, and today we’ll take a look at the northern side of the Mild West scene documented on Manitoba Music. A sweet power pop ballad opens the collection — “Humming Bird” from Imaginary Cities could be a Go Go’s number about innocent love and innocent loss. Hook and chorus, a gentle build and drop, and they sing “Come on, come on, come on.” I translate that as “Stop waiting you foolish boy, I’m ready to breed!” Ash Koley has seen some traditional chart success. Her style is just as pop-influenced, but it’s got a bit of a military march backing “Apple of My Eye.” We slow down to a more pensive, perhaps even emo feeling “Night Window” by the Weakerthans, and then hit the sweetly sung “Never Said Goodbye” by JP Hope. Slick and painful, this could be a cabaret second-to-the-last number, complete with a piano and violin accompaniment.
There are 20 cuts here, all noteworthy and spanning genres from ’60s girls group (Chic Gamine, “Closer”) to blue eyed indie pop rockers (Hope Atlantic, “Lost at Sea”) to smoky bar crooners (Greg MacPherson, “Smoke Ring”) to progressive rock revival (Les Jupes, “Myth #3”), and even some street smart urban hip hop from the mean streets of Winnipeg (Wab Kinew, “Give It Up”). I can’t say there’s a bad cut here, and the experience of listening to the album all the way through is similar to hearing a drive time college radio music show. You never know what’s coming, but it never disappoints. There’s even a classic shit kicking, line dancin’ cowboy tune from Ridley Dent to close things out. After all, this is the beginning of the Canadian prairie, and you’ll need a big hat and a bigger truck to cross it all.
Manitoba Music: manitobamusic.com