Oh! Records; 2010
14 Tracks; CD
Review by: V. Rachel Weldon
You've heard Caribou's "Odessa", and whether you listen to Olenka and the Autumn Lover's album-opening single of the same name either by virtue of your partiality towards its title or because you read this stellar review of a fantastic sophomore album is insignificant.
What is significant is And Now We Sing, the latest release of London, Ontario-based musicians Olenka Krakus (classical guitar, lead vocals), Sara Froese (violin, vocals), Simon Larochette (trumpet), Daniel Mancini (drums), and Kelly Wallraff (cello, vocals), along with an extensive revolving-door lineup of comers and goers.
"Odessa" is a perfect introduction to Olenka and the Autumn Lover's orchestral-folk sound, one that pays homage to Krakus' diverse influences, from Wilco, Beirut, and Arcade Fire in sound to The Beatles and Joni Mitchell in vocals and harmonies. The album-opener exhibits pitch perfect swinging harmonies (most of their songs do), incendiary instrumentation from the Autumn Lovers, and overall impressive songwriting.
The second track "Clean" chugs in next like a steam-powered train with rhythms propulsive and abrasive, followed by the country-western drinking tune "East End", written fondly about the artists' community in London, Ontario's Old East Village (Londoner Shad shouts out the east end as well on his latest album TSOL).
The album's sound then slumps into a poignant but pretty marriage of blues and bluegrass on "Motel Blues", takes a long stroll through orchestral pop on "Lark" and "Mary's Song", and at times picks up steam on tracks like "Sparrow" and "Shame". Finally, it rides off into the sunset with the dreamy "Sweet Little Road in the Country". But the real standout track on And Now We Sing is the darkly lyrical "No Coins", on which Olenka's dynamic narrative and instrumentation is simultaneously poignant, sophisticated and exciting. Lyrically, "No Coins" exhibits the determined and spirited voice of a young heartfelt woman with memories from Communist Poland and a strong sense of social responsibility, and offers the exclamatory lines the album's title borrows from.
And Now We Sing will put Olenka and the Autumn Lovers on the map, along with Canadian orchestral-rock contemporaries like Owen Pallatt and Arcade Fire. Olenka as a songwriter has matured her lyrical and instrumental style immensely following their last full-length studio album released in 2008. But the most impressive aspect of And Now We Sing, surely, is the singing; Olenka and vocalists Froese and Wallraff hit every harmony on the mark, and Olenka's acrobatic songwriting doesn't make that an easy task. Catch Olenka's solo shows live in London on November 21 at Gigs, or November 25 with The Wilderness of Manitoba and Leif Vollebekk at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.