Shout Out: Nathan’s Key Principles

key principlesWinnipeg’s Nathan play something along the lines of western indie pop. Their 2007 LP Key Principles is thus far my only exposure to the band, and from what I can tell their sound is closely tied to the overshadowing natural beauty and mystic lonesome of the wide western praries. The band has a host of strengths in their favor – two sugar-tongued singers in Keri Latimer and Shelley Marshall, a strong sense of melody and harmony, and a knack for vivid lyrical imagery. Apparently these kids are all the rage in Canada, but so far as I can tell ain’t too many in Estados Unidos who’s heard of ’em.

The record kicks off with “John Paul’s Deliveries,” exhibit A in the case for Nathan’s songwriting excellence. The melody winds through the lyrics like a drive through the backroads as Latimer and Marshall sing a song about “listening to the crickets and the heartbeat of the dark.” It’s a good indication of where Nathan’s headed on Key Principles, with most of the songs inhabiting a sort of lost old town. A strange nostalgia is especially palpable on “The Boulevard Back Then”, where Latimer takes the lead and sings “I like to walk around my dark house/Preparing for the day the lights go out”, then remarking “You should have seen the boulevard back then/We’ll tell our grandchildren.” Here, as with all of Nathan’s songs, the phrasing is just as vital as the lyrics themselves, infusing into mere words myriad emotional layers.

The gentle dream-pop of “Trans Am” recalls the best moments of The Innocence Mission,  while “Scarecrow”, “You Win”, and “Malorie” groove with a sass that recalls four or five decades past. For me though, the most deeply affecting tracks are “The Wind” and “Ordinary Day,” the first a overcast meditation on futility and surrender, the second a heartbreaking track about hungering for loves lost.

NathanBathSMKey Principles is one of those albums that gradually knocks my socks off, if one can gradually have one’s socks knocked off. The lyrics so strong, the songs so captivating, the performances loose but full of conviction, Nathan is the kind of band that deserves worldwide fame and glory. I have a sad feeling that they’ll never achieve the kind of fame they really deserve, but really that’s ok. It gives me the opportunity to introduce them to others on a one-on-one basis, which is really the kind of exposure that does them justice. But the great news is that they have a strong back catalogue, and thus I have a feeling that I have found a stalwart of a band, one that won’t likely let me down in the years to come with each subsequent offering.

Anyone else out there heard Key Principles? What did you think?

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