The great Nigel St. Hubbins of the band Spinal Tap once said “There’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.” Boats, the indie pop group from Winnipeg straddle this line like a circus tight rope walker. Their eclectic songs that span the universe of the layman, set them apart from rock star clichés. A Fairway Full of Miners is the band’s 3rd full length release, and it sees the band establishing that not only do they walk that fine line, but more often than not it sees them offering us infectiously hooky and clever pop songs.
The album starts large with a building epic “Animated GIFS”. If you’re new to Boats sound, this song sets the tone of where you the listener and the band sit. The song builds and builds, never resorting to choruses, even if there is background vocals that bellow “And all your friends will turn to shit” early in the song. The clever baritone background singers appear again, but the song never relies on them, they pop up at times later in the album but never when you expect them. “Great Skulls” is another catchy pop song which, like the others, really features the distinct high voice of singer Mat Klachefsky. It enables the songs to open up, but still seem rooted and interesting. “Advice on Bears” is a ballad about bears, it’s simple, and has a great payoff at the end when Klachefsky croons “Just remember they’re more afraid of you, than you are of them”. “Sad Legs” four songs in, still sees the band mixing it up, this time starting it up with a beat driven song that builds again, and like before has a great climax payoff with Klachefsky belting “I’ll kick at this machine till you come back to me.” I’m not really sure what he’s talking about there, but the phrase played over in my head after I first listened to the album when I was playing pinball later that night. “O Telescope” is mid-point-freak-out on the album. It’s under two minutes and might be the loudest, and acts as a bridge for the second half. “Advice on Bioluminescent Bears”, “We Got Pillows and Blankets”, and “We Got Tables and Chairs” brings back the light poppy sounds, slows things down, and even though they don’t jump out as being as interesting as the beginning of the album, they’re a good contrast. “O Jumbotron” ramps it back up again as an ode to the large screen that one might find themselves when looking for that brief moment of glory. I can only assume that they’re talking about perhaps being high in the rafters at a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game where fans are known for their rowdiness. “Getting Worst.jpeg” is a driving song that elaborates on the themes of the album which is the minutia one finds about getting older in the modern electronic age. “The Salteen Coast” ends the album on a simple contemplative note, capping a wide spanning eclectic album.
Klachefsky’s song writing style coupled with his voice ultimately make these songs quite memorable, and even if the voice starts to grate on you, you won’t be able to help yourself to groove to the hooks. Boats who have been climbing the Canadian indie scene will most likely be the new kids on the charts this year. They might even be distinct enough to breakthrough down south.
– Michael Unger