Band of the Day

2012.04.26

Kathryn Calder

Charming, synthesizer-drenched indie pop from a member of the New Pornographers
I'll wait to cross the molten river of us. I'll see you there along the other side.
lyrics from Who Are You?

Kathryn Calder is an indie rock singer, songwriter, and musician from From Victoria, British Columbia. She got her start in the music industry when she joined the indie pop band Immaculate Machine in 2003. Calder was then tapped to fill in for Neko Case as a vocalist and keyboard player with The New Pornographers at live performances, before becoming a permanent member of the band in 2006 and recorded on the band’s albums Challengers (2007) and Together (2010). When she was only a teen, Kathryn discovered that The New Pornographers lead singer Carl Newman was her long lost Uncle (her mother was adopted). Her first solo venture Are You My Mother? was released in 2010 on File Under: Music and was made while Calder was taking care her ill mother who later passed away due to Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Her second solo album, Bright and Vivid, was released in 2011.

Canadian singer-songwriter Kathryn Calder makes evocative and unflinching pop music. So it’s no surprise that she called her second solo record Bright and Vivid—the title is the perfect summation of an album filled with huge waves of sound, synthesizers, pianos, guitars and Calder’s incredible voice, one that can swing from the upper register to a breathy coo in the same perfectly-constructed hook. On Bright and Vivid, Calder fully incorporates the maximalist sound of her day job band, the New Pornographers; there are big, pounding rock drums (played by Superchunk’s Jon Wurster), violins, drum machine beats and enough reverb on slow-burning opener “One Two Three” to fill every province in Canada. The album sounds very Of The Times, with squelchy synths and uptempo beats on the dancey “Who Are You?” and the bouncy power-pop drive of “Walking in My Sleep.” Calder makes great headphones music: the stuttering “Five More Years” has plenty of Easter eggs for the sonically curious, with snippets of gurgling water, rattling percussion, and a languid guitar line that’s easy on the ears all hiding in the mix. However, her music isn’t just filled with little details—it’s big game indie-pop, more experimental than either her bandmate A.C. Newman or Neko Case’s solo material but still poppy enough for fans of synth-pop acts like Chairlift. It’s music that will make you dance around the room, only periodically stopping to pay attention to the lyrics and major chord changes. Though Calder gained notoriety when she began filling in for Case during live performances with the New Pornographers in 2005, she’s actually been playing music since her early teenage years. She was a member of indie-pop band Immaculate Machine from 2003 until 2008, and the experience of touring and performing for years has rubbed off nicely on her solo work. 2010’s Are You My Mother? was a more subtle offering, recorded at her family’s home in Victoria while she cared for her ailing mother, but it’s still a revelatory work and portrait of an artist dealing with tragedy. Like everything Calder’s ever been involved with, it’s a triumph of balance. Can music be both catchy and brainy at the same time? Calder knows the answer is a definitive “yes,” and she’s not going to stop churning out breathless pop songs until everyone nods in agreement.