Canadian duo’s change of pace create a classic.
Altameda are a duo comprising Erik Grice and Troy Snaterse and are based in Toronto and this album is all about longing to get out of town and go somewhere ‘down the road’. It’s inevitably influenced by the duo’s recent experiences, which include Snaterse’s father’s recent near fatal stroke and the death of his stepbrother – both within a few weeks of each other. But this doesn’t make for a maudlin listen – far from it. It’s an album full of great tunes and a range of styles.
Opening track ‘Dead Man’s Suit’ is a brooding and downbeat start – but it’s a powerful track and slowly builds with some lovely strings. Opening lyrics are – “Bought a dead man’s suit in Denver. Then wore it on stage. Got me thinking about impermanence, how everything dies with age.” It had made Snaterse think why some people are given a second chance, whilst others aren’t.
‘Wheel of Love’ is a life affirming slice of gorgousness, with some lovely warm bass lines, bluesy rhythms, stirring strings and some really effective pedal steel. ‘Neon (& That’s Why)’ is a sparkling song about finding a better life someplace more exciting, where two lovers can get away from their humdrum existence and finally become who they were always meant to be. ‘Nightmare Town’ on the other hand, is a piano led rouser and mixes life’s highs and lows, showing escape as a destructive impulse. “I know it was a joke but something was going through my head/ About the power of the gun and what I could do with it”. This song was written after Snaterse and his girlfriend had seen and been so impressed with Terence Malick’s majestic but troubling 1973 film Badlands and the song’s as powerful as the film is.
The album was recorded with acclaimed producer Thomas D’Arcy (Neko Case, The Sheepdogs) and mixed by studio wiz Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Whitney, REM) and, whilst previous Altameda albums have been sounding more rock and roll, this one is an exercise in craftmanship and subtlety – and all the better for it.
Snaterse recounts something his grandmother used to say which heavily influenced the album – “don’t go wishing your life away” and he thinks “she meant that we shouldn’t spend so much time thinking about the future that we miss out on appreciating everything that’s happening in front of us right now”. So true.
The album was written by the duo remotely and they were eventually able to regroup together post Covid – but still needed remote collaborators, including saxophonist Joseph Shabson (Destroyer, The War On Drugs) and string arranger Drew Jurecka (Bahamas, Dua Lipa).
This album finds two musicians so affected by their own personal experiences that, inadvertently, these songs are both painful and transcendent, brilliantly balancing a raw sound with gentle, atmospheric arrangements.
This is a classy, must listen album.