Ox – Burnout & the Wheat Pool – Hauntario

Weewerk/Shameless Records

On a long enough timeline every emo kid eventually picks up an acoustic guitar. Now that CBC Radio 2 has pushed its banjo-per-hour quotient to almost laughable levels it means that demographics be damned roots rock is on the rise. Luckily among the wash of tepid twang merchants a pair of Canadian acts stands out albeit with varying success.

Edmonton’s The Wheat Pool gets its No Depression on with melancholy chugging and some well-placed harmonies. The best moments on Hauntario easily outshine anything on the latest Son Volt record and whether that band is an intentional touchstone or not the comparison is easy. Vocalists Robb and Mike Angus are shamelessly earnest but that plays to the album’s credit. The first three songs are just as sad as they need to be but unfortunately as Hauntario progresses and things cheer up The Wheat Pool starts to sound just like every other folkie four-piece.

Ox while not nearly as prolific continues to offer up surprises. Despite healthy doses of psych and reverb Burnout veers into the realm of slowcore with whisper-soft drums and feedback-inspired strings before cranking its way back to straight-up mid-tempo bang and twang. This album sees the band’s ever-evolving lineup at a studio-cramming high but the album lives and dies on Mark Browning’s crooked croon and inspired pop culture references. Burnout may only offer six new songs (with a lovely redux of “Miss Idaho”) but with material this good you don’t need any more.