PACKS were an increasingly visible presence in Toronto in the first half of 2020 thanks to a string of interesting lo-fi singles released through Bandcamp in late 2019. As their visibility began to increase, they were picked up by rising Brooklyn based record label Fire Talk Records despite the band rarely venturing far outside of Toronto. Enter, their outstanding debut record Take The Cake.
PACKS was initially a solo song writing project of vocalist Madeline Link that she pursued between gigs as a set dresser for commercials. Now a four-piece composed of Shane Hooper (drums), Noah O’Neil (bass), and Dexter Nash (lead guitar), they all turn Link’s melodically adventurous and introspective songs into the purest and brightest kind of indie rock.
Take The Cake is enchanting from the start. The opening track “Divine Giggling” sets the tone and sound of the album perfectly, introducing the fuzzy Sonic Youth inspired guitar tones and Link’s charming voice that’s so effortlessly captivating it’s easy to miss her keen ear for acrobatic vocal lines.
It’s clear that Link is has a masterful song writing talent that wrings commanding poetry out of every-day building-blocks as she navigates the growing pains that linger beyond adolescence such as suffering through loss, relationship breakdowns and feeling directionless in life. Link also successfully paints pictures with her wisdom, subsequently creating heart-breaking and thought-provoking scenes in the listener’s head.
The absolute highlight of Take The Cake is the melodically stunning and poetic track “Hangman” where Link takes the listener on a journey through her mind attempting to emotionally connect with someone else’s. This is beautifully accompanied by a gorgeous acoustic guitar and a dreamy melodic slide guitar.
Throughout the chaos of everyday life, it’s impossible not to feel charmed by Link’s innate understanding of the little things that make the universe tick. Her expert song-writing ability that masterfully articulates her thoughts is rather awe-inspiring. The vintage sounding instrumentation gives the record a feeling of timelessness that will hopefully keep the record memorable for years to come.
For a band that have only been together for a couple of years, a short 24-minute debut album of this amazing quality is astonishingly impressive. PACKS take the listener on an adventure of love, lust, pain, and dreams that’s beautifully melodic and instrumentally fascinating - it’s certainly one hell of a ride.