By Kevin Nelson
Ever hear of Kathryn Calder? No? She just happens to be a key member of one of the most influential Canadian Indie Pop bands of all time.
No, not Neko Case. No, not A.J. Newman. And no, definitely not Dan Bejar.
Calder is the keyboard player and vital back up vocalist for the New Pornographers and she’s just released her third album, the self-titled Kathryn Calder. I should know – I’ve been stalking her for years.
Some music fans might not recognize Calder because they’ve grown to accept Case’s vocals as the dominating female in the Pornographers, causing Calder to disappear into the background. But Kathryn’s lead vocal contributions on the band’s finer tracks, like “Dancehall Domine” and “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” have cemented her place as a key part of the band who can step out of the shadows when called upon.
That’s actually one of the main critiques of her self-titled album. Like her role in the New Pornographers, many of the tracks are low key to the point of distraction. Consisting simply of Calder’s vocals and sparse instrumentation, she sometimes disappears into the background. These aren’t bad songs — Calder’s voice is hauntingly beautiful — it just seems like an odd approach to the album.
This restrained approach really makes more upbeat tracks like “My Armour” and “Take a Little Time” standout, though. Here Calder opens up and lets out near-Pornographers levels of pep and the songs are unbelievably fun, catchy and hooky. The question of course arises—if the whole album consisted of poppy songs like these, would the standouts still stand out? here’s arguments to be made both ways, but the key takeaway is that these two tracks are amazing.
Combine tracks like these with the work Calder turned in on her first two albums, and you’ve got the makings of a potent live show, which she’ll deliver twice in Seattle on April 26, first with a free in-store performance at Silver Platters at 2 p.m. and then again at the Columbia City Theater at 8 p.m.