Recording information: The Hive, Victoria & 6 Nassau, Toronto.
The sixth studio long-player from Canadian overcast-pop confectioner Mark Andrew Hamilton, T R O U B L E sees Woodpigeon dialing back on the chamber pop flourishes of past outings in favor of a more restrained though no less confessional set of downbeat indie folk emissions. Written after a particularly nasty breakup that launched Hamilton on a whirlwind international journey, including sojourns in Argentina, Austria, and Turkey, the 11-track set navigates the brackish tributaries of cynicism and catharsis. Parsing through the world's oldest source of misery and pain is hardly a novel concept in the singer/songwriter arena, and Hamilton does little to differentiate himself from others who have tried to exorcise its myriad torments through melodic intervention. That said, T R O U B L E isn't without its affecting moments. The aptly named "Devastating" postulates that "Might makes right, and it's why we fight" via a soft yet insistent hand percussion-peppered backbeat, as does the like-minded yet more measured "Faithful" -- Hamilton's subtle use of polyrhythms throughout the set suggests that he was soaking up more than just existential dread during his globetrotting. On the other end of the spectrum, the penultimate "The Accident" boasts the album's most engaging melody, which comes to a feedback-induced midpoint mini-crescendo that invokes treadless tires meeting wet pavement -- a metaphor that anyone who has loved and lost can appreciate. Hamilton bookends the LP with a pair of cyclical pieces, with the latter, "Rooftops," allowing a one-minute moment of silence before ending on a hopeful albeit melancholic instrumental outro. It's heavy stuff, but it's delivered with the humility of someone who has enough road behind him now that the rear-view mirror is no longer a window into the past, but a seconds-old snapshot of the present. ~ James Christopher Monger