The East Pointers: What We Leave Behind
Self Released/Proper Music Distribution – 29 September 2017
‘What We Leave Behind’ is the accomplished and highly-anticipated second album from the East Pointers, a band who have already made waves on the folk scene with their brilliant 2015 album Secret Victory, which won Traditional Roots Album of the Year at the 2017 JUNO Awards. The band comprises East Coast Canadians Tim Chaisson, Koady Chaisson, and Jake Charron, who armed with banjo, guitars, and enthusiasm, create an album full of some of the freshest sets I’ve heard recently.
The opening track might tell you that that the album will be something of a departure from the East Pointers’ previous work, as Tanglewood uses synth to create an unexpectedly reflective atmosphere and mournful quality with great success. Pleasingly, the joie de vivre that fans have come to expect from their style remains, and the playing is relaxed and confident. A sense of joy is also present in the surfing-inspired Party Wave, which features sparkling banjo, some seriously impressive rhythm changes, and a driving beat just made for dancing to. It’s a set full of clever tunes which all have one foot firmly in the band’s traditional roots, and yet head off in unexpected directions. Other sets such as Pour Over rock along in a similar vein, guaranteed to put a smile on your face with their flowing style and fizzing energy.
Alongside its optimism, the album confronts emotions such as isolation and heartbreak. 82 Fires, for example, was written following the band’s experience of the Australian wildfires of 2016. The first thing you notice on this track is the depth of sound, created from layers of percussion and sweeping backing vocals which convey the epic scale of natural disaster. Techniques are also borrowed from modern pop, and it’s certainly ambitious, creating a tone which would be at home in a stadium venue. Two Weeks is another vocal offering with a serious subject, highlighting the fact that many residents of rural or isolated communities must live away from their families for long periods of time in order to find work. “Nobody warned me I’d leave there so broken, come back so lonely” quavers Tim Chaisson, over a beat and texture which makes both this and Miner’s Dream sound almost like mainstream records by The Lumineers. While it’s inventive, I feel the East Pointers are missing the opportunity to really use their strengths in traditional instrumental playing, which easily match up to some of the best on the scene. A classic example of this ability is No Bridge Too Far, which begins as a flash of comic genius reminiscent of a silent film, and shows that these boys have got some classy jazz-inspired rhythms tucked away. The final tune in the set is arranged to near perfection, with a brilliant opening transition.
The band’s approach to hunting the perfect blend of genres pays off in the title track, and What We Leave Behind is a wonderful demonstration of how the style of the East Pointers can combine pop and traditional music in tracks that are still accessible to devotees of both. It’s a truly heart-wrenching instrumental, where simple playing is mixed with sighing electronics, and it provides two of the most affecting minutes on the album. The Crossing is similarly an understated gem which will surely make its way into many late-night sessions when something is needed for those nostalgic and contented moments towards the end of the evening.
While I’m admittedly not yet fully convinced by The East Pointers’ approach to vocal tracks, I do applaud them for pushing their own boundaries, and this album will doubtless bring some new listeners to the folk scene. Many bands are trying for that elusive perfect blend of the unexpected and traditional at the moment, and instrumentally, the East Pointers are one of the most successful in delivering it. You can hear what fun they had recording the album, and What We Leave Behind is certainly a breath of fresh air that blows straight from Eastern Canada.
The East Pointers October 2017 UK Tour Dates
October 12 – Newtown, The Hafren
October 13 – Cardigan, Theatr Mwldan
October 14 – Builth Wells, Wyeside Arts Centre
October 16 – Abergavenny, Borough Theatre
October 17 – Barry, Memo Arts Centre
October 18 – Ceredigion, Aberystwyth Arts Centre
October 19 – Uffington, Thomas Hughes Memorial Hall
October 20 – Manchester, Theatre 1, HOME
October 21 – York, Pocklington Arts Centre
October 24 – Cheltenham
October 25 – London, Water Rats