Personnel: Colin Huebert (vocals, guitar, piano, synthesizer); Tamara Lindeman, St. James Music Academy Senior Choir (vocals); Peter Carruthers (guitar, piano); Erik Arnesen (electric guitar, banjo); Owen Pallett (strings); Andrew Rasmussen (piano); Shaunn Watt (drums, percussion).
Recording information: After Life Studios, Canada.
A decidedly Vancouver-sounding record that invokes names like Frog Eyes, Mother Mother, Destroyer, and anything related to Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Moonface), the third long-player from ex-Great Lake Swimmers Colin Huebert and Erik Arnesen, better known as Siskiyou (a Gold Rush history-rich county in Northern California), is a brooding, nervy, and darkly satisfying slab of overcast alt-pop that flirts with dissonance, yet remains ultimately committed to harmonic agreement. Those melodies are solemn, however, and the aptly named Nervous serves them up repeatedly encased in barbed wire. Nowhere is that predilection for pop necromancy more apparent than on the evocative opening cut "Deserters," a densely packed, bottom-heavy dirge that deftly utilizes the talents of the St. James Music Academy Senior Choir and sax sorcerer Colin Stetson to conjure up something that's both impossibly beautiful and deeply unnerving. That unwavering adherence to mood (and a bleak one at that) figures heavily in things to come, with only the dreamy "Bank Accounts and Dollar Bills" and the bouncy "Oval Window" there to break the fall, but even those tracks walk with the gait of a man who is as haunted as the days are long, and what little good cheer is derived from their clever pop craftsmanship is ultimately driven back into the thick plumes of fog that birthed them. That constant tension between atmosphere and melody is at its most fevered on the penultimate "Babylonian Proclivities," a nearly seven-minute prog-folk stunner that blends the twisty, echo chamber pop of Alt-J with the bucolic Northern folk-rock of Huebert and Arnesen's previous employers, and like most of the delightfully bleak Nervous, it's both dense and impossibly airy, like a storm cloud about to blow. ~ James Christopher Monger