Kathryn Calder: Bright and Vivid



This solo sophomore album from hipster chantoosie Calder is a big step towards establishing her own tone as a solo artist. This is on account of she arrived on most folk’s radar as singer with The New Pornographers and had that to get out from under. All along, she’d been writing songs that wouldn’t fit with TNP’s aesthetic so a solo album was inevitable.

It dropped in 2010 and Are You My Mother? was the stylistic mishmash in search of a core that was, in a way, to be expected. It did serve an important purpose in establishing that Calder could take meaningful steps away from TNP and in the direction of her own voice, so there was a sense of good things to come. If the debut was the expected, this one exceeds expectations.

First to be sent to the showers the stagnant melancholia which was the dominant vibe of the opener, replaced with an inclusive cherry pick among genres suitable to Calder’s honeyed vocals.
Next off, the earnest, at times timid and sketchy production values. In its place, vast washes of sound and layer upon later of subtly subverted instrumentation and a deft hand with using voice as instrument. It’s not yet the definitive Calder album but it’s full of signposts to how she intends on getting there.

The throwaway opening track aside, there’s much to admire here, not the least of which being Calder’s commitment to her art. The album was created in the aftermath of her mother’s passing and, given the debut album’s tone, could easily have been a miseryfest. Instead, Calder paints her subject matter with a richer and more vivid emotional palette than sadness and regret.

The approach yields some vital results; the Lady Gaga-like foray into Euro dance of first single ‘Who Are You?, a medieval-minded melody and the haunted and haunting vocal of ‘New Frame Of Mind’, the strollin’ jazzified pop of ‘Five More Years’ with its tres oblique view of love and the elegantly layered vocals and retro-pop textures of the closer ‘Younger Than We’ve Ever Been’.

Much must be made of the contributions from Calder's new band of Lane Arndt (gtrs), Stefan Bozenick (bs) and Marek Tyler (drms). Those gorgeous washes of sound must have required much studio time and it’ll be interesting to see how Vivid and Bright fares in the live setting when Calder takes it on the road later this fall.

Lenny Stoute