Toronto's Blackpaw Society gives a how-to lesson in contemporary pop craftsmanship. Quirky, to be sure, but perhaps not as creepily odd as the cover may lead you to think.
The album ‘People Doesn’t Care/1955 ‘ may not be as creepily odd as the cover would have you think, but it most definitely has its quirks. More importantly, it is a highly accomplished work of modern pop – one, in fact, that makes you wonder how so many other artists get it wrong.
For one thing, Toronto’s Blackpaw Society (he’s a solo artist, although I don’t know his name) does not bore you with sameness. Each track has a style and vibe of its own, from the pillowy, bedroom pop of the opener “Trash” to the emotional ramp-up of the closing power tune “Leper”. The song “1982”, in its smooth, slick sophistication, serves as a reminder of 1970s pop production without resorting to pastiche or devolving into pure schmaltz. “Mad Scientist”, on the other hand, with a bass-line that means business, harkens back to 1990s Radiohead (except for the Beatlesque bridge, perhaps) without being the slightest bit derivative.
It would be misleading to point to any particular track in this strong collection as being the standout, but “Strange/Fiktionkicks” deserves recognition as a fine example of well-crafted powerful pop. The gentle vocals accompanied by some killer tremolo guitar almost lull you into a dream state but then the chorus kicks in with a lively faux reggae beat. It makes for an original sound.
The album is filled with those subtle touches – gradually swelling synth strings, a growl of guitar distortion, etc. – that make good songs into great ones. However, Blackpaw Society’s true artistry here is in the way he takes this eclectic collection of songs and weaves them into a coherent whole. For one thing, the playing order is arranged in such a way that there is an overall even pace. Furthermore, cleverly composed intros, along with a couple of carefully placed instrumentals, make for a smooth transition from one tune to the next.
Blackpaw Society’s anonymity provides some mystique, which is not out of place given the slightly off-kilter nature of the music. However, in a way it would be nice to put a name to the person who deserves kudos for giving a how-to lesson in contemporary pop craftsmanship.