BY FATEEMA SAYANI
The new Amos the Transparent album is best enjoyed from start to finish. The 11-song album called This Cold Escape was released Tuesday. It’s an art-rock extravaganza that plumbs the depths of songwriter Jonathan Chandler’s mind summarizing anxieties, questions, outlooks and perspectives into short songs that are like chapters in a book. Those songs are put to orchestral-like arrangements that are at once delicate and dramatic. It paints a shipwrecked, lost-at-sea feel for the listener.
The album’s story is about life paths and about what happens when you choose your own adventure, or as Chandler puts it, “With every decision, another decision is left behind.”
This Cold Escape is the fourth album from the Ottawa sextet (or fifth if you count their double EP). It’s a loosely biographical tale that stemmed from a time a few years back when Chandler had a Kathleen Edwards moment and decided he didn’t want to play music anymore.
His band mates — Chris Wilson, Dan Hay, James Nicol, Mike Yates and Olenka Reshitnyk — talked him through it, and from those conversations they realized there was enough substance to build an album.
There are songs about reflection (“Out the Window,” “Big City Lights”); others about cold realities (“Death & His Certainty” and the title track, “This Cold Escape”); and songs that offer closure on the album’s subjects (“Bury My Bones,” “Build A Home”).
So what life did he choose? Well the answer is rather complex if you listen to the album in its entirety, but by way of conclusion, Chandler offers, “If you still have love for whatever you do in the end, you’re okay. Anything you pour years and years into won’t be so quickly let go.”
In other words, Amos the Transparent is still a band and they’re still making music, but now you’ll hear fewer stabs at making a massively hooky radio single, as was the case on previous albums such as on My, What Big Teeth You Have (2009) or their debut Everything I’ve Forgotten to Forget (2007) with stick-in-your-head tunes such as “The M.O.B. Catalogue” or “This Town.”
The band made a conscious effort not to use too many big guitar sounds on This Cold Escape, but rather to layer things with vocals. “There was one day where I was in the studio and sang just oohs and ahs for a day to fill spaces,” Chandler says. “We focused on the intricacies.”
At their live shows, the band is playing all the songs from the new album, in the same order, accompanied by projections to underscore the story. See them at the Neat Café in Burnstown on November 15.