4

Great Lake Swimmers

File Great Lake Swimmers under "alternative Canadian country" — faster (sometimes) than a speeding Iron & Wine, less intense than a galloping Band of Horses and just about exactly as nasal as a youthful Neil Young (because though you can take the band out of Canada, you can't take Canada out of the band). In fact, GLS are as preciously pastoral as they want to be. Which, unfortunately, is entirely too damn much. Their third and latest release, Ongiara (named for a Toronto Island ferry boat), offers earnest song titles like "Put There by Land" and features improbably verbal mountains. Even the disc's cover is dominated by an oversized eagle soaring so majestically it could pull double duty opening The Colbert Report. And yet for all its touchy/feely faults, Ongiara also welcomes the occasional and unlikely banjo, which, as it turns out, serves as near perfect accompaniment to Tony Dekker's high, lonesome tenor. At their best, Dekker's vocals also soar — and rise and glide and circle — through powerful, incantatory rounds ("and the shape/that your body makes/that your body/makes that your body/makes that your body makes") just as pretty (oh so pretty) as you please. So come down off the talking mountain, boys. All is forgiven.

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