Northern Transmissions review Alex Calder's new EP 'Life'

Our Rating


Unfortunately for drummers, they usually find themselves on the receiving end of the typical musician jokes. Classic example:

“What’s the last thing a drummer says in a band?”
“Hey guys, why don’t we try one of my songs?”

Dave Grohl aside, drummers tend to rack up a bad reputation when they venture out from behind the kit to the center-stage microphone (see Both Sides of the Moon – Keith Moon). On his debut solo EP Time, Alex Calder explores what life would be like as the focal point of an album, stepping away from being “just the drummer” for British Colombia’s own Mac DeMarco. Calder has been quietly recording and releasing solo work under a pseudonym (Collage Party) for some time now via the internet, but has now put together a solid set of seven songs for his first proper solo release. In order to complete his mission of drummer to songwriter/frontman, Alex Calder made the move from the barren cold of Edmonton to arguably Canada’s capital of culture, Montreal. It is unclear how much of an impact the city had on Calder’s sound, but he wouldn’t be the first to grasp his full creative potential as a result of the inspiration and beauty of Montreal.

The EP begins with “Suki and Me”, loaded with dreamy wanderlust lyrics over a song-driving bass line. Alex Calder doesn’t have the pipes of a Grohl or even a Ringo (possibly why the vocal track is mixed lower than the other instruments), however he does have something to say. The lyrics to the album’s first song are simple and fun, a song for free lovers wanting to see the world. One reoccurring problem on the album is that often times the songs are so catchy and interesting that they leave the listener wanting to hear more, however most songs clock in at fewer than three minutes long. The guitar riffs are full of hooks, and it would be great to have several of these riffs extended and fully fleshed out if any of these songs are to make it onto Calder’s first full-length album when he decides to make one.

“Light Leave Your Eyes” is the guitar player’s highlight to the album. There is nothing overly technical or complicated to the playing, however it is almost as if Alex Calder shares lead vocals with the instrument on the track, playing a vocal-like melody which breathes fresh life into the song. The song’s chorus is comprised of soothing “Ooooooh’s” over jangly tambourine, evoking the sounds of fellow Albertan ex-patriots The Rural Alberta Advantage. Musically, “Location” might be the weirdest song on the album with several different instruments and sounds taking turns controlling the steering wheel, however Calder finds a way of making it all fit together nicely and as a result the song works. It is hard to make out Calder’s words here, but his vocals are used more as an instrument on the track rather than trying to convey a message, with the sounds of a mellow sleepy voice lending well to the sonic themes of the song.

“Time” is insanely catchy and one of the more energizing songs on the album. The song is molded by the peaks and valleys of the typically hazy vocals of Calder meshing with the sound of him singing in a barely recognizable higher registry to create an album highlight. It would be interesting to hear Alex Calder explore this song further, as unfortunately the song is barely two minutes long.

The EP is completed by “Lethargic”, which is obviously not the prettiest title to give a song, but is the most bare-bones Calder gets on his solo debut. Alex Calder comes off sounding desperate and isolated; he is on a quest for a purpose to his life and lets his emotions run high trying to avoid another day being played on repeat sitting on his couch. Calder sings of a desire to break free from his day to day monotony, and thankfully for him this EP may provide him with that opportunity. Alex Calder’s Time may be one of the better debut efforts you’ll hear this year, and points to a promising career ahead for him as a solo artist. Count Calder as one more to break from the curse of the drummers.

-Stewart Wiseman




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