Die Stadt Musikanten may sound like the name of a group of classical musicians who are on the point of playing a vast number of Mozart symphonies, but it is in fact the title of Mark Andrew Hamilton’s latest offering as Woodpigeon, indulging in a little nostalgia as he remembers, among other things, the lives of his grandparents in Vienna.
It’s an intriguing start point for an album often doubling as a biopic soundtrack, its beautiful artwork suggesting that music of an intricate construction lies in store. That proves to be the case, with Hamilton’s scoring again and again presenting the songs in imaginative and luminous colours and backdrops.
As with previous album Treasury Library Canada, Hamilton shows a keen awareness of orchestral brushwork, from the crackly gramophone and tinny piano sound of the title track through to the blissful string arrangements on Morningside. Only Such A Lucky Girl is a little odd, with some curious guitar lines and string interjections sounding like they’ve been superimposed on the wrong track. Meanwhile The Pesky Druthers employs a full children’s choir for its light headed final chorus.
Where this album really wins through, however, is in the way the instrumentation supports the overall feel of warm romanticism, with Hamilton trumping the last record emotionally with a succession of deeply felt songs and communal singing. The latter discipline comes through most keenly in the gorgeous Empty-Hall Sing-Along, full to the brim with carefree harmony despite its ruminative close, and the wonderfully uplifting …And As The Ship Went Down, You Never Looked Finer, topped off with a poignant piano coda.
Lyrically Hamilton also seems to have hit a rich vein of form. “In my final verse, all I got is two more words that I won’t say lightly”, he sings in The Pesky Druthers. “You don’t need to worry, I’m not packing yet”, comes the response from his accomplice. The harder, more rocky My Denial In Argyle complains how “you’re my denial, not just in Argyle, and I’m a fool to stay”.
With no fewer than 16 pretty lengthy tracks plotting its course, Die Stadt Musikanten is a considerable collection. Yet such is the craft of Hamilton’s songwriting that the record’s length is easily passed over. Throw in his ability to rustle up a few lyrical gems and a slow burning treat is the delightful result.