When Canyon’s album arrived, it was the first time I received an unsolicited album that I really ended up loving. Empty Rooms has seen heavy rotation in my stereo, and I even took an hour-long subway ride to see them live, because I was so taken with the music of Evan Berdot, Derry de Borja, Dave Bryson, Brandon Butler and Joe Winkle.
It’s hard to pick out standout songs off Empty Rooms because it all fits together so well. The D.C.-based band’s second album has the kind of intensity that holds you up from the opening sheer series of twinkling notes to the last line, “in the end…you’re always gray” — sort of an inverse message to Abbey Road’s “The End.”
The first song, “Sleepwalker,” introduces their sound perfectly, flowing from a spare sad dirge to a screaming instrumental catharsis. Intimately layered lap steel, guitars, piano, harmonica, accordion, and so on move smoothly between near-transparence and deluges of sound. “Other Shore” buzzes with tension. Near the end is the angular and encanting “Head Above.”
Equal parts grounded alt-country laments and Pink Floyd-style uneartly ramblings, Empty Rooms is what I wanted the new Wilco album to sound like. Canyon’s album is seemless and fully actualized where Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, though it has some great parts, gets lost in so much grandstanding and self-conscious experimentalism. By the way, go see Canyon live if you can-their scope is magnified about 50 times in person.