Album Reviews

Ohbijou – Beacons

(Bella Union) UK release date: 8 June 2009

Beacons is the second full-length release from Ohbijou. Originally thevehicle for Canadian songstress Casey Mecija, the band has expandedto include a wide variety of instrumentalists and at least one sibling inthe form of her younger sister, Jennifer. And, as befits a sisterlycollaboration, the subsequent output here takes the form of a very feminine,even girly album.

Casey M is gifted with a warm, intimate, conspiratorial grin of a voice -the band’s greatest strength, and one that is showcased with varying levelsof success throughout the album. On sweet, tuneful tracks like opener IntroTo Seasons and Eloise And The Bones it really takes flight, and the listeneris drawn into its honeyed depths. At its most intimate and unadorned, as onBlack Ice, it is also a clear, articulate and involving means ofcommunication with the listener.

It almost seems a shame, then when thebacking singing joins in – often taking the form of sweet, wistful sighs ofthe “ooh” and “ahh” variety (which feature, in some form, on at least halfof the songs: Wildfires, Black Ice, Cliff Jumps, New Years, We Lovers,Memoriam). Often, this ends up feeling a little surplus to requirements -gilding the lily, perhaps?

The overall mood and feel is folk-flecked (banjos andaccordions appear, and strings are fairly ubiquitous) and pastoral. Thereis a marked lyrical focus on the seasons – particularly Winter, which isevoked in several songs (“Winter brings / Peculiar things” from CannonMarch; “Winter sleeps in trees” from Eloise And The Bones).

Anothertrope is the moon, which features in a poetic lyrical extract from WeLovers: “The moon falls in lines of silver / Reflected light on the stillwater / Bring me life in a million colours / Bring me love like no other”.Another arresting lyric is Thunderlove’s “I shout “timber” ‘cos / I amlumber falling down”. Both are typical of much else on the album in theirjuxtaposition of nature with a slightly wistful emotional mood.

Quite charming as a lot of this is, the pacing of the album does ebb andflow. Tracks like Black Ice, Cliff Jumps (which follows it in the runningorder), Make It Gold and We Lovers don’t have strong enough melodies orstriking enough instrumentation to make them memorable, unlike those thatare most successful (Intro To Season, Cannon March with its grand pianointroduction, Eloise And The Bones and the stand-out Thunderlove, where thestately string interjections lend drama at key points). At such weakerpoints something a little more than the – albeit wonderful – vocal is neededto keep things moving along.

This, then, is music as an appealing, extremely easy-on-the-ear warmaural bath. Not one to challenge or confront the listener, despite theoccasional “mild peril” lyrical themes (which don’t ever actually end upsounding too perilous), it can be added to the treasured and valuable ranksof albums into which listeners can immerse and lose themselves for awhile.

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Ohbijou – Beacons