All this indie-tinged folk music is like hot chocolate: If it’s thin and watery it might suffice at a truck stop in the rain, but if you’re drinking cup after cup, it’s important to use only the richest ingredients. Great Lake Swimmers, with a Canadian heritage of cool weather and bleak landscape, produces a thick blend of cocoa with equal parts atmosphere and instrumentation but fails in its decision to sugary lyrics to the mix. This won’t deter those who merely appreciate the sound of Nick Drake, Iron & Wine, My Morning Jacket and Neil Young. But for more literate listeners, Bodies and Minds might singe more than soothe.
The buzz about this sophomore effort is that one-man-band Tony Dekker has improved on the solitude of his first album by recording this one with a full band in an abandoned grain silo in a lakeside church in rural Ontario. The addition of the Wurlitzer, lap steel, banjo and drums to Dekker’s fine tenor and guitar combine for a thicker brew, but the earnestness of his lyrics sometimes backfires.
These vocals deserve to take center stage in front of a quiet backdrop, because the contemplation they evoke is fairly hypnotic. Unfortunately, with sonic hints of everyone’s favorite moody songsmiths interwoven throughout Bodies and Minds, the expectation is set for subtle imagery. The dense concentration of exposition in lyrics such as those from “To Leave It Behind” – “I’m not Adam; you’re not Eve./They were brave enough to leave” – is the dangerous equivalent of sipping hot chocolate through a straw. Luckily, tracks such as opener “Song for the Angels” and “When It Flows” are more subtle in their delivery of the metaphors scattered throughout the album.
Lyrical content aside, the panoramic postcard view of Great Lake Swimmers is still picturesque. Even jaded listeners irked by this album’s sincerity will find that these songs, lyrics and all, tend to latch themselves to your consciousness and stick with you for days. Overall, the album’s one-dimensional mood is something best appreciated in very specific late-night cozy conditions, but in the harsh light of day it tastes sickeningly sweet, like the sugary chocolate sludge left over at the bottom of a super-saturated cup of cocoa.
Great Lake Swimmers Web site: http://www.greatlakeswimmers.com/
Weewerk Records Web site: http://www.weewerk.com/greatlakeswimmers.html
Misra Records Web site: http://www.misrarecords.com
“Bodies and Minds” MP3: http://misrarecords.com/greatlakeswimmers/downloads/Great_Lake_Swimmers_BodiesandMinds.mp3
“To Leave It Behind” video: http://www.scottcudmorefilm.com/videos.html#
Various MP3s and videos: http://www.weewerk.com/greatlakeswimmers.html