In 2013, Close Talker were finalists in CBC’s Searchlight competition for Best New Artist, in the process gaining a share of the spotlight in the quest to find the next big Canadian indie rock band. On the strength of last year’s Timbers, they fought their way through the blogosphere not with originality, but by simply being good at what they do: straightforward catchiness, finely tuned and delivered cleanly. Their sophomore album, Flux, trades the strength of singalong melodies and moody dances for a step further into their tranquil side, and get closer to a sound they could call their own.
Songs like “Great Unknown” display a new musicality. Quiet at the start, the number grows at the end, adding horns over a close-woven vamp that grooves, its few notes wiggling memorably. The instrumentals are often strongest, and the weave of background harmonies casts a wooing spell on dry listeners. Gone are the oohs and aahs of the first album, replaced by choir-like backing vocals that appear in multiple songs — you could picture a flock of angels singing those parts on “For the Sun” or “Patmos”.
The album’s faults lie not in what the band are doing, but in what they aren’t. While copping rock tropes left and right, they rarely touch on anything purely original. A pop listener will hear hints of U2 and Coldplay in the guitar play. An alternative listener will say vocalist Will Quiring’s delivery evokes Local Natives or Manchester Orchestra. An indie listener will say it sounds like Matt & Kim emulating a blog band from the late ‘00s. Close Talker, though are at their finest when they dare to be original. On “Take It Back”, keyboard percussion sets a new scene before layered guitars take the track into a shouting chorus all their own.
While none of the songs are packed full of joy, the tranquility won’t be mistaken for melancholy — Quiring delivers even his saddest moments with a tempering of maturity and his most upbeat with a sense of restraint. With a leap of growth between efforts, Close Talker are on the right track. If the band stops holding back and continues developing their own unique sound, they may be on the way to greatness. For now, Flux is a listen worth revisiting.
Essential Tracks: “Great Unknown”, “Take It Back”