Contemporary Canadiana folk duo The Strange Valentines have released an acoustic live-on-the-floor album ‘Does Anyone Know How to Fix Old Radios’.
The Strange Valentines are noted for their unique blend of contemporary folk drawn from Australian rock (David Farrell) and Nova Scotia folk (Janet Mills). Using two voices and acoustic instruments, they sound somewhere between Gillian Welch, The Milk Carton Kids, and the Waifs. Various iterations of guitar, mandolin, octave mandolin, and tight blended voices tell tales from deepest heartbreak to pitchfork-like angst against corporate greed in their connective live shows.
Since releasing album ‘Forks’ amid pandemic catastrophe of the past year and a half it’s been a creative time for The Strange Valentines. With time to reflect on human impact on the planet, feelings of isolation, and a yearning for some of the more positive aspects of simpler times, inspiration was born for songs on album ‘Does Anyone Know How to Fix Old Radios’.
From songs like ‘Burning House Waltz’, an old-timey feel waltz that has humans dancing amidst their own destruction, ‘So Long’, that bids farewell to our planet as we know it, there are songs like ‘Cowboy Man’, a song about a modern day cowboy that can’t seem to find the right town, or ‘Nova Scotia Moon’, a song about a family in isolation. The common themes of simplicity, nostalgia, and broken-ness, yearn for answers in simple radio repair. Old radios that captivated us, consoled us, celebrated with us, and were the soundtrack to a different, musically connected culture and time.
And the sounds for the album are infinitely simple. After recording the whole album with layers and production, they duo were unsatisfied with the result as it embodied the songs. They re-recorded the entire album as a live-on-the-floor acoustic expression. The result is refreshingly simple, with two voices and two instruments with a kick drum on a couple of tracks.
Sparsity of sound opens up space for the characteristic sound of David Farrell’s arch top vintage style Waterloo guitar. Weaving beautiful lines of melody and embellishments throughout, the guitar adds complexity and otherworldliness to songs like ‘So Long’, ‘Goldie’, and ‘The Wind’ that transport the listener to a peaceful place with gentle waves and acoustic guitar. The simplistic production also highlights an emotional vocal with tight rich harmonies. In songs ‘So Long’ and ‘Love Shines Through’ a dual harmony line carries throughout the the entire song. This album has a softness and honesty, with light and shade, recorded during semi-lockdown conditions to reflect humans with their inherent beauty and imperfections in an imperfect world.