You know those apples you use to give your elementary school teachers? The iconic red ones, with six inches of lacquer mummifying the fruit? The EP A Slow Dive by Canvas is kind of like that fruit - it may be picture perfect, but you've got to dig through a hard glossy veneer to get to its heart.
Canvas is the solo project of Toronto indie musician Chris Graham, who took the opportunity of breaking with his old band to record every instrument on A Slow Dive himself. Being a lifelong fanatic of both epic guitar rock and electronica, A Slow Dive is Graham's attempt to do both at the same time. Someone described the early demos as "electro-Springsteen,” which is pretty right on.
The problem with this kind of referential meta-art is someone sets out to make a song that sounds like Springsteen (not saying that's what's going on here, just an example), whereas The Boss himself may have just been attempting to capture a feeling of loneliness, or tell the story of some blue collar buddies he knows. These days, it seems like someone sits down to write a "hit." This is twice removed from any heart or lifeblood and comes across as some pop music Play-doh factory.
At the heart of A Slow Dive, Canvas seems like some accomplished glam piano pop, something like Lady Gaga, The Dresden Dolls or going further back Elton John. The ivories are gradually met by synth bass and twinkling leads, which are then built up with strum-y indie rock guitar and beats. I would've liked this more if some of the original instruments had been retained, if there were some more natural aspects to differentiate this from second-tier synth pop.
I'm sure there are plenty that will flip their lids to this beneath the disco ball so perhaps I'm being a stickler but I like a bit more heat (or coolness), some more lifeblood pulsing through the silicon veins.
The production is top notch and the songwriting instincts are there. Next time, I hope Chris Graham searches for what separates him from the rest, what he alone can say and not just lay out some grist for the Top 40 paper.
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