The band's new David Comes to Life (Matador), released earlier this month is my pick for album of the year so far. A conceptual (but not egg-heady) piece about doomed lovers in a vague, presumably not far-off dystopia, David reworks the layered, near-psychedelic guitar onslaught of 2009's The Chemistry of Common Life, which won Canada's prestigious Polaris Music Prize, into something harder, tougher, and more anthemic. Abraham's singing, still more a shout than anything else, is actually (mostly) intelligible. There are brief twinkling interludes that set the roaring in relief, and pretty, wispy backing vocals do the same for Abraham. But it's not the sound so much as the spirit that makes the album kick. As harsh and aggressive as the band can be, their momentum and, for lack of a better word, vibes, are positively galvanizing. They charge determinedly forward. They don't sneer from the back.
That sense is even more pronounced live. I saw the six-piece (three guitars!) opening for Dinosaur Jr. last Thursday night at Terminal 5 in Manhattan. Abraham spent most of the set leaning over the rail separating the audience from the stage. When he wasn't singing—or sticking the microphone in audience-members' faces so they could sing—he was helping the crowd-surfers to safety, wrapping them in a bear hug and helping them to the ground. At one point, he was swinging the microphone cord and beaned a security guard. Abraham tapped him on the shoulder, apologized, and made sure he was okay. Then he rejoined the burning guitar squall with a thrilling, throat-scraping scream and the fans went nuts. He's that kind of guy. The Torontonians are that kind of band. If you haven't heard them, you should. DAVID MARCHESE
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