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Les chemins de verre

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Album Review

Karkwa went for a stripped-down, back-to-basics sound on Chemins de Verre, their fourth studio album. While the result could have them pegged as a Francophone answer to many bands, from Death Cab for Cutie to Gravenhurst, it will not make them rise above those bands because of the record's overly unassuming sound. There is nothing wrong with acoustic strumming, but it was no original trick even back in the day when Bob Dylan first sung "The Times They Are a-Changin'," and so a group that wants to capture the audience with this sort of music needs to either have some very convincing chords or really good atmospherics. Karkwa attempts both, but the best cuts here are still those where the folk/country core is coated in additional wrappings, like percussion, synth backdrops, and electric guitars, to make the songwriting more dynamic. Songs like "Le Bon Sens" are moving and challenging pieces, but many other tunes, which rely on a simple setup of slow acoustics or a little piano with plain vocals recited over the music, are simply too easy to tune out, becoming nothing but background sound by the start of the second verse. The good news, though, is that Chemins de Verre is still worth a listen for what it is: Karkwa may not be rivaling Early Day Miners or Sparklehorse when it comes to folk-tinged musical hypnotism, but they still do a mean job of establishing a pleasantly introspective mood — the musical equivalent of a walk in those Quebec woods on a sunny Indian summer evening. Moreover, additional spins may prove the experience to be more addictive than expected, although getting seriously lost in Chemins de Verre remains complicated.


Formed: 1998

Genre: French Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although Karkwa only released three albums during the band's first decade together, the Canadian group garnered considerable critical acclaim during that time, eventually becoming the first francophone band to win the Polaris Music Prize. Formed in 1998 by singer/guitarist Louis-Jean Cormier, keyboardist François Lafontaine, bassist Martin Lamontagne, drummer Stephane Bergeron, and percussionist Julien Sagot, Karkwa scored a quick victory after being cherry-picked to perform at the Printemps du Quebec...
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Les chemins de verre, Karkwa
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