Flashback Week: Brendan Canning - "You Gots 2 Chill"

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Brenden Canning - You Gots 2 Chill
Release Date - October 1, 2013
Record Label - Draper St.

I wasn't too surprised when CoS's list of the top 20 solo albums by rock 'n roll artists included Feist's The Reminder over the handful of records which have come out of the Canadian super-group-collective Broken Social Scene. Imagine the uproar if they had left Feist off the list!  Hating on Feist is sure to be some kind of crime north of the border, even if the actual crime is committed in the USA. The gutsier call, in my mind, would have been either of the solo releases by Brendan Canning the proverbial guy-behind-the-guy of BSS and whose 2013 solo release, You Gots 2 Chill is easily the most overlooked and critically unappreciated records of 2013. You Gots 2 Chill sounds abounds with slow-burning acoustic tracks that came from messages that Canning sent to himself on his answering machine.

In many ways, You Gots 2 Chill, is an album whose contents directly reflect the title. Opener "Post-Fahey" cascades acoustic riff atop acoustic riff. Canning's musical touch is as subtle as it is enticing. Canning's strategy seems to be to draw every musical moment out of a particular pattern as on "Lightfoot," when the gentle slide of a slide guitar and tinkling of percussion accent and harmonize with the gentle pluck of his acoustic guitar. Far from being simplistic, Canning's songs expose the complexity of each riff. The "chill" comes from the laid back tempo of the tunes as well as the way in which Canning utilizes harmony and melody to create the gentle layers of his tracks. On "Heading There," the vocals seem to split and diverge surrounding the bluesy riff. Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink takes the vocal reins on "Bullied Days," the single of the record, and one of the best stand-alone tracks. Here, Gesundheit's vocals swim around a dreamscaped composition.

Throughout the album, Canning intersperses those voice mails he left to himself as "Long Live Land Lines" and "Once A Lighthouse" provide an atomic understanding of what his songs transform into. On You Gots 2 Chill, the result isn't only a track, but an entire universe of songs each marked and painstakingly placed. "Bullied Days," for example, ends directly into "New Zealand Tap Dancing Finals," juxtaposing the languid vocals with a staccato finger-picked line and electronic percussion.  Even these answering machine tracks, like "Once A Lighthouse," are folded into the mix as the grimy recording of Canning's answering machine riff is followed by "Lightfoot," the track which uses this same riff.

The repetitive lines twisting and varying minutely make this record a cousin to Do Make Say Think's You, You're a History in Rust. Ohad Benchetrit, from DMST, recorded the album and you can feel the imprint of the venerable Canadian instrumental outfit on Canning's recording. There's an undeniable eccentricity to Canning's music that's highlighted by the production. From the squeaks on "However Long" to the slow, spacey harmony of "Late Night Stars," Canning's riffs provide the foundation for these tracks while the progression of the track is accomplished through experimentation, addition,  and subtraction. Benchetrit and Canning's friend Steve Singh recorded the album, and though the description of Canning's process may sound stitched together, the record sounds like an entire composition more than a collection of tracks. The subtle intermixture of electronics and acoustics and the way that the album builds, creating songs through experimentation rather than structures using rhythms, repetition and revision.

For this reason, You Gots 2 Chill has received, by in large, it's (pardon the pun) chilly reception. To draw a comparison between Canning's work here and with BSS is inadvisable. As Canning put it, "they're my tunes." As such, there's a refreshing personal ownership that you can feel in the tracks. Even the titles like "Makes you Motor" and "Never Go to the Races" sound like inside jokes from Canning to Canning. And, it's this personality which makes the record a rewarding listen. In some ways, you have to listen to this record as if pulling Canning out of BSS not trying to compare him to the group, like when you actually get that chance to hang out one on one with someone that you only know as a part of a group and it turns out that they may not be as like your mutual friends as you once thought. But, make no mistake, this is not a coming out party for Canning or some sort of debut for someone who's already firmly established himself as a core member of one of the most influential bands of the past 15 years. Rather, You Gots 2 Chill reveals itself as that rarest of all solo records, one which actually seems to reveal the person rather than their ambitions.


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