ENTER THE HAGGIS
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Indie sensation Enter the Haggis reminds me of another Canadian band, Great Big Sea, in that it has slowly shed its Celticesque rock and reel persona to become more of a pop rock ensemble. Those expecting skirling pipes dueling with fiddles will hear only traces of that on Whitelake, as ETH mines other roots sources. “Pseumoustophy,” for example, sounds like a cross between James Montgomery and Neil Young, and “Of a Murder” (a musing on John Kennedy?) moves between café-like somber moods and dramatic rock reminiscent of the Electric Light Orchestra. “Let Me Go” is classic ETH in its rowdy bar-song feel, but the addition of trumpet, cello, and more lush arrangements throughout signal a direction change.
Of particular interest on Whitelake is the manner in which ETH mashes the various roots it plucks from musical soil. “Headlights I & II” opens with an art rock feel, but roughly midpoint it transitions into a rock-tinged-with-bluegrass arrangement. The next song is “The Basket or the Blade,” whose title sounds more ominous than the actual content. It’s actually a delicate and pretty song in which keyboard notes fall like rain drops and recounts the mutual probing of psyches that takes place at the start of a potential new relationship. Other selections mix soft sounds with harder breakouts. “Getaway Car,” for example, could easily be a pop single. It uses to quieter melodies to build to a soaring refrain that you won’t easily dislodge from your brain. In fact, the only song that doesn’t entirely work is the band’s cover of Canadian legend Stan Rogers’ lake tanker tragedy “White Squall.” It’s a narrative tale custom-made for folk singers, but it’s also one that relies on voice for drama. These days, ETH is all about the arrangement.
The new release won’t be on the street until April, but the band is on tour throughout the eastern US. Catch them and pick up a copy.