“Canadians simply have better taste in music than most people”, an acquaintance of this reviewer sighed when looking at the nominees for this year’s Polaris Music Prize. This Canadian accolade is one of the few awards in the music industry that is still considered to have any kind of credibility and commitment to truly innovative and interesting music.
Montreal’s Trips and Falls aren’t nominated this year, and, after listening to their second album People Have to be Told, it’s no slight to say that competing with the likes of Arcade Fire, Destroyer et al would have been a bridge too far for the trio this year.
Their sound is warm and the songs clearly put together with great affection – there are lots of thoughtfully placed pauses, breathing spaces for the understated drum fills and clean guitar pickings, and every care is taken to ensure that singer Jacob Romero’s lyrics remain the centre of attention.
In ‘Good People Are Always So Sure They’re Right’, for example, Romero uses a blasé tone of voice to tell the story of a murder over an almost-but-not-quite dissonant guitar accompaniment, which at the end gives way to a loud, satisfyingly distorted release.
Elsewhere, Trips and Falls give the impression that they’re most comfortable in the “nice guy indie rock” category, of which fellow Canadians The Weakerthans and Tokyo Police Club are the outstanding purveyors. Sadly, there are few genuinely strong songs on display. ‘I Learned Sunday Morning, On a Wednesday’ is bland, twee alt-rock, and Romero, while a skilled storyteller (“I tried so hard to fight so hard to fight the urges/but I see you every week in my pew/…/The Lord I believe in/has nothing to say to me in this regard”, in ‘Is That My Soul That Calls Upon My Name?’) isn’t a good enough singer to make the slower tracks (e.g. ‘That’s What She Said’) hold up to scrutiny.
Consequently, the best songs are those where multi-instrumentalist Ashleigh Delaye takes equal billing with Romero, such as the lovely ‘This is All Going to End Badly’, a simple construct of a clean, ringing guitars, single-note synth melodies and, for once, a decent hook. John. K Samson’s thin, slightly whiny vocals are a clear influence on Romero, but he and his bandmates too rarely conjure up the concise, comfy indie pop songs that The Weakerthans seem to be able to churn out at will.