Most of the press that surrounds the Chicago sextet Canasta is wrong.
Maybe I should be more clear. Upon my first listens of Canasta’s fantastic 2010 release The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather I was immediately whisked back to my halcyon days of college in the early Nineties, when I had more hair on my head, less hair on my face and the dew of optimism had yet to be wiped from my eyes.
This hot tub time machine was made possible by very strong–and I use this non-ironically–Beatlesque Britpop influence. The soft tenor style of vocalist Matt Priest to me recalls singers like Ian McColloch from Echo & the Bunnymen, Nick Heyward from Haircut One-Hundred, and Kurt Ralske (aka Ultra Vivid Scene). The fact that Canasta is a six-piece helps them deliver beautiful, complicated, nearly-orchestral pop. Clean ringing guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies floating over strings and keys draws easy comparisons to The Smiths.
So, I was surprised when I was looking over the press for Canasta that regularly compared the band to contemporaries like Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens and… um…Wilco?
In an exchange of e-mails with Canasta’s Matt Priest, he admitted, “I think you’re right that some of our influences reach further back than the press is likely to notice… bands from the late 90’s such as Calexico, The Delgados, The Beta Band, Elliott Smith, Neutral Milk Hotel . . . or bands from the 80’s and early 90’s, like Tears for Fears, Pet Shop Boys, They Might Be Giants, Echo & The Bunnymen . . . or reaching even further back to the 70’s, with folks like Elton John, Nick Drake, Alan Parsons Project, David Bowie . . . Those are probably our true influences.”
In reference to the current bands that are typically referenced, he continues, “Don’t get me wrong…. we *love* bands like Wilco, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens. But, those weren’t so much influences on the band; we came across them once we’d already started to find our own sound. So, they were more of an inspiration, as in, ‘Hey, those guys are are doing a great job going for some of the things we’re going for–and finding their own audience too–how cool is that?’
There nestled in the extensive list of influences is what appears to be the nearly 30 years of my record collection. While this list seems impossibly diverse on paper, the thing that unifies all of these artists is a strong knack for melody and composition that Canasta brings in spades.
Click Here to listen to “Mexico City” from The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather.
Click Here to listen to “I Don’t Know Where I Was Going With This” from The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather.
Click Here to listen to “Reading the Map Upside Down” from The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather.
Canasta is also going to be recording with the folks at Daytrotter, so look for that session to be posted in the future.