Rock & Roll Report Card

The Weakerthans, Reunion Tour
The Weakerthans, Reunion Tour
Various Artists, Paper Bag Records Fifth Anniversary Compilation / 2007 Sampler
Various Artists, Paper Bag Records Fifth Anniversary Compilation / 2007 Sampler

A+
92%

The Weakerthans
Reunion Tour
Epitaph

This September, the Weakerthans released their fourth studio album, Reunion Tour, to the absolute delight of their followers. Reunion Tour is the first album the Weakerthans have offered up in four years, and it’s everything their fans could have asked for.

Combining poetic lyrics with alternating rock anthems and soft, instrumental ballads, the Weakerthans have created an album the way albums ought to be made, composed of songs that are distinct in and of themselves, while also painting a larger, unified picture.

The characters, locations and emotions evoked by John K. Samson’s vocals and the band’s musical interludes are the stuff of real life, and are all the more powerful as a result.

It takes a special kind of band to write multiple songs from the perspective of a cat and get away with it. On Reunion Tour, Virtue—their cat character first introduced in 2003’s Reconstruction Site—makes her return, or rather, her departure.

In the song “Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure” we are treated to the details of Virtue’s new life. If the listener’s attention lapses for just a moment, the song could very well be about the departure of a lover instead of a cat. Sampson combines just enough human in Virtue to make her a character we wish we knew.

In keeping with this, the tracks on the album are a blend of endearing, upbeat tunes and songs about the mundane. The beauty of Samson’s lyrics is that the banality of life comes alive; if Reunion Tour is successful at only one thing, it’s emphasizing the little moments of life.

From “Sun in an Empty Room,” a song about saying goodbye to an old apartment, to the feeling of ineffectual uselessness generated in the song “Utilities.” Reunion Tour is an album about everyday life.

The Weakerthans have sealed their position as CanRock mainstays, and—perhaps more importantly—given us all an album that feels tailored to our lives, whatever they may entail.

—Angela Hickman

A-
82%

Various Artists
Paper Bag Records Fifth Anniversary Compilation / 2007 Sampler
Paper Bag

Paper Bag Records has been at the centre of the Canadian dance punk and indie rock scene for five years now, and to celebrate, the Toronto record label has put out a compilation showcasing 10 of their most popular artists.

About half of the songs featured are remixes, giving older tunes like Tokyo Police Club’s “Cheer It On” a fresh and more up-to-date face-lift. New songs give the listener an idea of the Paper Bag’s current direction.

Ottawa’s The Acorn make an unlikely contribution to the sampler with “The Flood Pt. 1,” from their release this fall, Glory Hope Mountain. The song is a production dream—chest-thumping percussive layers intersect with harmonized, atonal vocal sounds and Spanish-sounding guitar details combine with a friendly hand-clap to use every available second on the track. The high-intensity array of sound drags the listener into a dazzling lyrical nightmare-scape.

The stand out track on the album is Shapiro’s “He Keeps Me Alive,” remixed by Scandinavian electro-star Skatebard. Glittering with twee, the sweet vocals are strong enough to meet the +hyper-disco track head on. While lyrics such as “I’m still happy when I get to hold his hand / He says I can hold it but remember we’re just friends,” are undeniably saccharine, the song is innocent enough to retain some ironic distance, making it listenable without being over the top.

Stretching between genres and arcing with ups and downs of emotion, the compilation foretells a bright future not only for this year’s batch of Paper Bag artists, but for the future of the label.

—Meghan Sheffield

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