Toronto-based Beams have been winning over crowds across North America for the last five years. Led by Anna Mernieks and her banjo, the band is often compared to country or bluegrass, but they have a certain otherworldliness that’s made them impossible to fit neatly in one category. “The lyrics are sad but the music is sweet,” sings Mernieks on the final track of new album Teach Me To Love, just before co-front woman Heather Mazhar comes in for a chorus that strikes exactly the bittersweet balance the lyrics describe. Beams has embraced contrasts from the start – even their name has opposing connotations, conjuring images of things both solid and permeable, light and dark – and with Teach Me To Love, the band is in full command of its contradictions. Recorded by Ian Gomes (Hooded Fang, Odonis Odonis) at Toronto’s Union Sound Company, the LP’s ten songs are subtle and spacious. Yet, Beams’ seven members bring a propulsive energy to everything they play. Brothers Dave and Keith Hamilton (mandolin, singing saw, vibraphone) bring texture and personality, Mike Duffield (drums) and Craig Moffatt (bass) drive everything forward, and Martin Crawford’s guitars lift the songs as high as Mernieks and Mazhar’s weightless harmonies. The album follows the band’s 2015 7”, The Gutters and The Glass, which was produced by John McEntire (Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, Broken Social Scene), and their highly-acclaimed 2013 debut LP Just Rivers.
While the album is versatile, ambitious, and diverse, the inspiration behind it was dark. During its writing, Mernieks went into a downward mental spiral, wreaking havoc on her personal and artistic life and leading to the cancellation of her marriage plans with bandmate Duffield. However, the crisis encouraged her to deal with her depression while simultaneously sparking her creativity. Teach Me To Love finds Beams at home in the realm of psych folk, a genre whose dual nature manages to encompass the sprawling beauty of these new songs. “My Second Time At The Mountains” wonders if you can ever experience a “first” again, whether it’s the awe of seeing mountains for the first time, or the way you loved someone in the beginning. “Apartment In My Head” is a spiraling, sinister tune that calls to mind acts like Timber Timbre, while the CBC calls “You Are An Ocean” “eclectic, nouveau-folk at its finest.” Together, the songs that make up Teach Me To Love form a whole that sounds right anywhere – on a subway ride to work, a late night long distance drive, or on the dance floor.
“Beams’ strength is their restraint, employing just enough singing saw, just enough plucking, just enough mystery in whimsical lyrics.” –Now Magazine
Beams “Offers such a dizzying array of bouncy arrangements that you’d be hard-pressed to classify it as folk in any strict sense, but it’s a giddy, attention-worthy winner no matter what label you stamp on it.” –No Depression
Recommended Tracks: Track 1, “Berlin, Teach Me To Love,” Track 2, “Same Old Exit,” Track 4, “Apartment In My Head,” Track 9, “You Are An Ocean”
FCC Warning: Track 10, “I’m Going On Holiday”
RIYL: Feist, Joanna Newsom, Sharon Van Etten, Kate Bush, Natalie Prass, Laura Marling
Label: Be My Sibling
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