Woodpigeon hail from Canada, a country which, it would seem to TLOBF, is not neccesarily punching above its weight musically but certainly punching hard. Specifically, Mark Hamilton's band are from Calgary - also the origin of The Dudes, whose album Brain, Heart, Guitar I reviewed quite favourably not long ago.Woodpigeon are also in the process of touring at the moment, and also promoting "album 1.5", the "tour album" Treasure Library Canada. With that in mind, it might seem strange that we're only just reviewing their debut album Songbook - the reason for that is that this album was released in Canada way back in 2006, but is only just getting a belated UK release. If you caught this month's TLOBF Monthly Mixtape -"September, And The Tragic End of Summer Like So Much Lost Love" (the title of which has just struck me as being very Woodpigeon-esque) - you might have heard Songbook's opening track "Home As A Romanticized Concept Where Everyone Loves You Always and Forever". So in a sense, Songbook is old news. But is it good news?As you might have heard, "Home As A Romanticized..." is a subtle, shimmering envelope for Hamilton's fragile, boyish voice with a soaring conclusion forged from vocal harmonies and twinkling glockenspiel. It's lovely - but happily, it shows just one of Woodpigeon's many sides, and, heard in the right context here, serves as an ideal introduction to this varied and ambitious album. Across its fourteen tracks, the album covers such ground as a slow-building instrumental ("A Slight Return Home"), relatively straightforward upbeat songs ("Chorus of Wolves", "Jonathan Ashworth Rollercoaster"), a grainy and almost The Beatles/The White Album-like song fragment ("Feedbags") and a huge, seven-minute romantic epic ("A Hymn For 2 Walks In Different Cities"). With so many different approaches taken, the attempt to keep Songbook consistent over its 55-minute length doesn't quite come off - but nevertheless this is a thoroughly enjoyable and impressive album.The main weak points, for me, come in the form of the vaguely Dylan-esque "Take The Hint Kid" and the following track, "Death By Ninja (A Love Song)". Woodpigeon are a fairly huge band, but much of the instrumental breadth and excitement they are capable of is missing from these songs - they feel like Woodpigeon-lite, breaking the flow of the album until "Jonathan Ashworth Rollercoaster" rescues proceedings.Those aside, Songbook is packed with highlights. "Ms. Stacey Watson, Stepney Green" is a rollicking hand-clapped rocker that starts "I talk down / to those I don't know well." Soon there are cyclic piano riffs, brass, and drumrolls - then everything is pulled away and gradually rebuilt again into a touching, epic climax - "why must love play games with geography", Hamilton asks. On "A Sad Country Ballad For A Tired Superhero" Woodpigeon somehow remind me of both the Thunderbirds opening music and The Dark Knight ("how long will you need me / to catch you when you fall?"), which I think stands as a pretty admirable achievement. Diverting away from the surreal connections in my mind and back to the song at hand, it features countrified barnyard guitars, atmospheric cymbal crashes, and team whistling along with its enchanting lyrics.The wonderful "A Slight Return Home" is a winding, Mike Oldfield-like instrumental epic, with more and more instruments joining into the sound as the song continues to climb the rungs on the ladder of epicness. Here, as on the similar premise of "A Hymn For 2 Walks...", Woodpigeon are possibly at their best, able to use the full force of the band's size and variety of instrumentation to gradually build a mesmerising musical landscape - and yet they never fully exhaust us or themselves, always wisely leaving us wanting a little more. Songbook is wonderful, if a little disappointing in a sense that it isn't quite the minor masterpiece it frequently flirts with being. No matter - Songbook is great.89%Woodpigeon on MySpace