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Album Review

Not as cheeky as the band name would have you believe, the Buttless Chaps' fourth release on Mint Records, Cartography, is a somber and straightforward affair. As the first release since their self-titled album to be written completely in the city, Dave Gowans' surly-faced, National-esque vocals find him isolated in metropolis hustle, longing for nature and questioning technology. Nothing new there. All of the Canadian quintet's prior releases tinkered with the theme of man vs. machine (a common concept around the turn of the millennium, popularized by OK Computer and, to a lesser degree, Sophtware Slump). While Cartography fits the bill of their other records lyrically, it also finds the band at their most organic musically. By dialing back the synthetics and vetoing the drum machines altogether, they sound like an alt-country band that has been paired up with a hot producer of the '90s to provide a sonic magnitude. For a maverick group that was hailed as the future of alt-country a few years prior, sadly, they could easily be mistaken here as a band derivative of James or Crash Test Dummies. This is to say, much less relevant. With their newfound alt-rock feel, keyboards are used primarily as padding, buried behind guitars (tenor, acoustic, and electric), banjos, accordions, and live drums and percussion. Jesse Gander's production is full and lush, but with less daring songwriting and instrumentation, this feels as though the band has devolved a bit.


Formed: 1998 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canad

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Buttless Chaps first rode into the Victoria, British Columbia music scene in 1998. While country-rock overall, the Chaps were strapped with touches of indie rock and twinges of fuzzy electronics. Led by vocalist/guitarist/banjoist Dave Gowans, the band also included guitarist/lap steel man Lasse Lutick, keyboardist/synthesizer guy Morgan McDonald, and drummer Torben Wilson. A self-titled LP followed soon after the band's formation; it enjoyed solid critical acclaim, and was picked up for national...
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Cartography, The Buttless Chaps
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