ReviewsShow Reviews

Language Arts unveil “Wonderkind” at album release party


by Eric Smale | photos by Eric Cairns

Language Arts make the kind of music that could go one of two ways in a live setting: it could either be stripped back to its singer-songwriter roots or presented with a band big and ornate enough to capture all the sonic details of their new album, Wonderkind, released April 1st on Maple Music Recordings.

Last Thursday at the Horseshoe Tavern, the band celebrated the release of Wonderkind with a set that sat nicely in the middle of those two extremes. The live arrangements showcased the lush sheen of the new album while also breathing some extra looseness and groove into songs that, on record, can sometimes feel overly buttoned-up or restrained.

The band took to the stage with singer/guitarist Kristen Cudmore all the way over on stage right and the rest of the band unfolding in a nice, democratic semi-circle. Rounded out with trumpet, drums, bass, backup vocals and keyboards, the six-piece band opened with “Oh Tangible World”, a swirling pop rock number and one of the more immediate tracks off Wonderkind. Appearing roughly halfway into Wonderkind, the song’s syncopated verses and group-sung hook took on a special lightness as a set opener, announcing the band’s unique brand of indie pop. Paired with “5 W’s”, a buoyant dream pop number introduced by Cudmore as a “love song,” the first two songs underscored just how effortlessly catchy the band’s music can be.

They also acted as a primer to Wonderkind’s more complex material, such as “Old Familiar”, arguably the centrepiece of the album and a pretty challenging piece for such an early slot in the set. It was a subtle, dynamic performance that managed to capture the grandiose arrangement on the record, including a downcast trumpet part. The song showed the depth of what Language Arts can do as a live band and got one of the evening’s most enthusiastic crowd responses, thanks largely to its supercharged climax and drummer Neil MacIntosh’s mammoth chops.

Many of the songs were slightly darker than their recorded versions. “Hot Air Balloon”, for instance, was imbued with all kinds of mood and suspense, qualities not so apparent on the album version. Likewise, songs like “Illusion” and first single, “Wonderkind”, were pared down to emphasize atmosphere and a smoky, New Orleans vibe.

Elsewhere, the live renditions brought out the best qualities of the record. When the band broke into the fuzzed-out tribalism of “What If it Were to Be Reworked” (for example) it was a welcome reprieve from the band’s more introspective compositions. The set closer, “More Than Amazing”, the first track on Wonderkind and easily the highlight of Thursday’s set, was just as wistful and nostalgic as it is on the record, and executed perfectly.

Over all, Language Arts have become an accomplished, confident live band more than capable of handling the many stylistic shifts found on their new album. It’s obvious watching them that they enjoy playing the album’s songs and this unabashed excitement is definitely part of their sound as a band. Already perfectly at ease with the material, it might, however, be exciting to see what the band is capable of when they are just a little bit less comfortable, a little bit less composed.

Comments are closed.

Verified by MonsterInsights