Album Review: Jon McKiel - “Confidence Lodge”

Review by Ira Henderson

Jon McKiel’s release “Confidence Lodge” (somehow I can’t bring myself to call five songs an album) is good. My girlfriend walked in on me listening to it, and her first response, after a short contemplative pause, was “This guy’s good.” I said “Yeah… So why aren’t I excited about it?” I’m still not quite sure what the answer is.

The more I listen to the thing, the more I like it. I might even go so far as to say that it’s really good. The instrumentation is solid, and varies enough from track to track to avoid the songs’ bleeding into one another. Having come into music in the bygone age before the shuffle button, I have a special appreciation for a well-ordered song list, and Mr. McKiel has the touch. He lays out five different tracks that compliment each other through juxtaposition without falling into monotony. The overall sound is unified, rich and layered, with a hint of grit and the occasional feedback whine or down-homey reverbed squeaky wooden chair thrown in.


Though the music is really good, there are a few funny moments. The track “Snow Owls” picks up the pace right at the end, breaking into a fingerpicky guitar thing that ends too soon without really going anywhere. “Motion Pictures” clocks in at just under two minutes, but really could have been closer to three. “Songs at Night”, the final track, ends very abruptly, which is a little jarring and disappointing. However, they do say it’s better to leave ‘em wanting more.

The overall pace of the songs, though some vary widely from others, is unrushed and relaxed. The golden thread is the singing, which stays fairly consistent throughout. Even on the faster songs, the vocal track is relatively slow and smooth. McKiel likes to record two or three varying vocal tracks and mould them together, which creates a nice effect that can range from melodic to spooky. The lyrics, however, sometimes get lost in the layers. This isn’t too detrimental, since most of the lyrics are fairly loose anyway. He doesn’t seem to be trying to tell stories or push a message or ideology. Rather, he creates general moods and feelings around a theme, which he does well without lyrics, so the words seem to take a back seat. I feel like he’s making some sort of esoteric sense, but if he is I don’t think I get it. At least his voice has a redeeming earnestness that allows me to believe that he believes in whatever the heck he’s talking about.

Whatever he is talking about, it’s very Canadian. I like that. I hear references to Mirimichi and Alberta, snow and oil sands, and I say “I’ve been there! I know about that!” I guess I’m just a sucker for the home team.

Really, Jon Mckiel’s “Confidence Lodge” is very good. It is, however, not very exciting. It has more of a chilled-out, background sort of vibe that doesn’t insist upon itself. There aren’t very many truly catchy moments, but the whole thing comes together nicely and will leave you feeling good. It did me, anyway.

Check it out for yourself at http://justfriends.ca/jon/

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