A little over a year ago, I was sitting in my room listening to Fleet Foxes’ full-length debut when I discovered something in the LP’s sleeve for the first time. Printed on a large piece of parchment was an anecdote which captured the essence of why I love music like nothing I had read before. In it, the writer cautions us of photographs, which he claims are almost like fake representations of what we think to be memories. Do you really remember your third birthday, or has a picture that you’ve seen repeatedly, mixed with accounts of the day from people who were there, created a false sense of memory, now almost indistinguishable from the real thing? The authenticity of a memory is definitely questionable when it has been cognitively inserted into your thoughts through photos and their accompanying captions. Music, on the other hand, claimed the writer, has the ability to evoke much more genuine memories, taking you to the time when you heard a song, what you felt then and what was around you:
“Ask anyone who loves music and they’ll tell you that certain albums and songs remind them of particular places and people; loved ones who may now be gone, good and bad times, or particular evenings spent driving for the sake of wanderlust all somehow take sustenance from the songs that accompanied them. The trick is that the memories enhanced by the music come to life more readily and with more force than memories triggered in any other way.”
Music can take you to places. Now I know I haven’t shed any new light on this special but well-known dimension of music, but I will say that there are few albums and bands which can evoke this journey for me – especially in this era of music over-consumption that we’re in. Fleet Foxes are definitely one of them and I discovered another this past Fall when I was invited to go see a new band called Make Your Exit play an album release event in Toronto.
As a band with a very limited amount of recorded output at that point, it dawned on me fairly quickly that the majority of the people at the release party probably shared my perspective of minimal exposure. Nonetheless, lines had formed on College Street and down Bathurst outside of Toronto venue Sneaky Dee’s to celebrate this new band and the arrival of their second EP. Some friends and family, many friends of friends and family, and many more. In an age where the live show has transformed into an increasingly disconnected experience between performer and audience, Make Your Exit were clearly a band built and supported by a community of spectators, playing for their community. They took to the small stage and proved this with no gimmicks. There were no unifying band costumes or haircuts, no fancy lighting tricks and no indulgent rants. Just 5 guys and a set which was varied and diverse in tone and instrumentation, tight and exciting. I later came to know them as Jeff Buckley, Mike “Skidboot” Denby, Mike Dellios, Oliver Pauk, and Mike Thomson. They were humble, yet played with the type of confidence that only comes from experience and conviction in what they were delivering. By the end of the gig, I was convinced beyond a doubt that I had to hear this album.
And so I discovered Remind Me the Reason I Came, a perfect EP for the Fall. Also, a perfectly titled album given the nostalgic trips it inspires. On album opener ‘Kids’, I was reminded of fellow-Canadians Born Ruffians and a Summer of house parties inspired by Red, Yellow & Blue. Later, on ‘Smokes and Lint’ I could’ve sworn I was hearing Montrealers from the now defunct Underwater Fight Scene, fusing jazz and indie rock so perfectly, building to a beautiful harmonized vocal outro. They took me right back to countless visits to Montreal ending in hazy chats and late night romps on street corners. And other points still, I could hear nods – whether intentional or not – to Pilot Speed, Band of Horses, Sky Blue Sky-era Wilco, and Fleet Foxes. I guess the best part of this record is that with each listen, it consistently brings me back to some of my favourite moments in music and otherwise from the past ten years, and yet it sounds completely distinct from everything it reminds me of.
The album captures the aesthetic that I enjoyed most from their live show beautifully. Recorded in an old Toronto church, there are points on the album where you’ll think you’re actually listening to live cuts. More raw than a steak-bleu, and yet so lush thanks to the juxtaposition of a xylophone on ‘Through the Winter’ or the delicate a cappella harmonies on ‘What We’ll Miss’, and sax solo on ‘Three Movements’. They manage to find a great balance in the generally precarious space between sparse and filled-out arrangements.
My experience with Make Your Exit began with their show at Sneaky Dee’s back in September. I attended and held the heir of a member of the press, camera-clad with pen and single beer in hand. Two weeks ago, I got to see them again, this time opening for Young Rival. This time, I was a screaming teenage boy. I bought a t-shirt. I was a bona fide fan, and I had one of the best night’s I’ve had in a year singing and jiving to their 7-song set. Remind Me the Reason I Came took me on a trip and helped me discover a band that will undoubtedly be huge next time we talk about them. This Saturday they’re playing Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern with friends Oh No Forest Fires and Clothes Make the Man. The show will be my last in a year of epic and amazing live music experiences and I can’t think of any better way to close out the year than with these guys.
Tags: Make Your Exit