Sub Pop/Kiwi Club
Canadian music is a very singular sounding thing. Not artists like Drake, Beiber or Nickleback. Those artists could’ve grown up anywhere. Specifically it’s the grand tradition of pop songsmiths that you stumble upon in the middle of a four band bill at The Apollo, hanging around the backroom of The Handsome Daughter or that you catch by surprise, while having a beer, on a Tuesday at The Horseshoe.
You can follow through to today, these direct descendants of bands like Eric’s Trip, Sloan, Superfriendz and Jale, all the way through along the family tree to Plumtree, The Meligrove Band, Golden Dogs and contemporarily, any of the wonderful acts that grace the roster of Mint Records. One of the bands today that exemplify this distinction is Toronto’s Kiwi Jr. The band has just released their great new sophomore album, Cooler Returns, and if you are a fan of any of the aforementioned things, or just a fan of wonderfully written and performed music, then this is definitely a record you cannot sleep on.
Cooler Returns kicks off with “Tyler” with lead singer Jeremy Gaudet’s endearing nasal delivery and some great arpeggiated guitars that collide and swirl around each other creating some kind of awesome rock n roll ouroboros. The arrangements on all the tracks featured on the album are impressively dense. The bass is consistently moving with presence and tension, banging up against the guitars and the deeply dry drum sounds, then out of nowhere it seems, like in “Tyler” or “Waiting In Line”, a jaunty piano will come into view and the band relaxes into a much needed breath of a chorus. Lyrically, Gaudet is also very talented. References to the CN Tower, off the rollocking “Undecided Voters” to great full stanzas like, “Super Bowl Sunday, 2020/I did not feel well leaving the hotel/Said a long goodbye to a big dollar bill/See you again at the reading of the will”. It’s all very wry and fun and literate and exactly what you would expect from a specifically Canadian act. Just one of the album highlights, “Maid Marion’s Toast”, surprises with a great harmonica solo. It’s the type of song you expect to completely demolish the tent on a hot summer day during Sappyfest. “Only Here For A Haircut” slows the proceedings down slightly, while also bringing back that harmonica. The songs also showcase the band’s use of harmonies, which are beautifully subtle but also to the point where you’ll wish there was a ton more.
You’ll end up dizzied by the sheer amount of hooks that take up every second of Cooler Returns. If you don’t trip over the guitar solos and licks in songs like “Omaha” and “Domino” then there is always the handclaps in “Nashville Wedding” or a seemingly throwaway line, in a lesser bands hands, like “Her name was Charlotte/She studied fashion in Montreal” which will make you chuckle or, possibly, feel severely nostalgic. With their new album coming out on the mighty Sub Pop Records it’s quite something to realize that a larger continent of indie rock fans around the world will be able to hear the sensibility that we Canadians have been lucky enough to come of age to, and that should make Kiwi Jr. and the other 30 million of us feel extremely patriotic.
Order Cooler Returns by Kiwi Jr. HERE