Title: For Paolo
Record Label: Boompa Records
Mark Andrew Hamilton’s Calgary-based Woodpigeon is an impressive number of releases into their career. In terms of EPs alone, For Paolo is their 8th since 2005. Happily, this doesn’t imply that the band releases everything that Hamilton happens to conjure up: the songs on For Paolo speak of discernment and grace in the composition and fleshing-out process, resulting in a collection of love songs that is affecting without being treacly.
There’s always a potential pitfall when it comes to love albums that are focused on a single object of desire [and/or devotion]: an artist in the throes of deep emotion will often think that the genuine feelings he has will just, you know, come across and be beautiful. Sincerity is a great thing, but only when it’s matched with craft, and Hamilton clearly knows this. The titular Paolo is Hamilton’s boyfriend, and these songs are all about him. They’re for the anonymous listener as well as for Paolo, thankfully.
The lyrics and songcraft here are excellent, and the band’s contributions enliven all of the pieces. The sinuous combat between orchestration and fuzzed guitar at the end of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Mark” is genuinely surprising and affecting, especially in combination with the tenderness in Hamilton’s voice. There’s none of the repellent syrup that defined the vocals of late-nineties emo in Hamilton’s voice. If you’re wondering why I bring that genre and that era up, it’s because I associate it very closely with the kind of love-album-gone-wrong that I was describing in the previous paragraph.
Admittedly, the lyrics in “By Lamplight” are a bit too sweet for my taste, but that’s because my sense of good love verse is more closely aligned with Larkin than it is with Keats. Or, in rock terms, closer to Swans’ “God Damn the Sun” than McCartney’s “Every Night.”