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Octoberman

On the surface Octoberman’s 4th album Waiting In The Well (Saved By Vinyl / Outside) is about waiting. Co-produced by Jim Guthrie (Royal City, Islands, Human Highway) and mixed by Howie Beck (Feist, Hayden, Jason Collett), Waiting In The Well showcases a more focused and poppier side of Octoberman’s brand of folk-rock heard on previous releases These Trails Are Old and New (2006), Run From Safety (2007), and Fortresses (2009). The title Waiting In The Well was inspired by popular Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and finds Morrissette following the book’s lead character down a metaphorical well in search of something deeper. While making Waiting Morrissette discovered that the wear and tear of touring had given him a vocal polyp that required intervention. The resulting surgery left him silent for two weeks and prohibited from singing for five months, forcing the singer to step back, listen and… Wait.

Octoberman’s first album since being fully settled in Toronto, Waiting In The Well finds Morrissette introspective. Whereas Run From Safety (2007) was a tearing down of old walls and Fortresses (2009), dealt with the fallout when those walls are reduced to rubble, Waiting In The Well takes Morrissette out of the context of exposure explored on these earlier albums and brings the emphasis within. As in Murakami’s book, Morrissette uses the well as an isolation device to remove the external influences that dominate and often dictate everyday thought. It is the dark place from which the songwriter emerges to put one’s own light on the subject.

Upon completion of Fortresses, Morrissette moved from Vancouver to Toronto, and recruited a new rhythm section in Marshall Bureau (drums) and Tavo Diez de Bonilla (bass). After a month-long European tour where the song arrangements fleshed themselves out, Octoberman went to London, Ontario’s House Of Miracles with Producer / Engineer Andy Magoffin (Constantines, Great Lake Swimmers, Cuff The Duke) to record Waiting. The polyp became a blessing in disguise as it allowed time for co-producer Jim Guthrie to add his magic to the project. The downtime was also used to accumulate contributions from regular Octoberman members Shaun Brodie (trumpet) and Randy Lee (violin) plus a gang of Toronto friends including FemBots’ Dave MacKinnon (piano), Wilderness of Manitoba‘s Melissa Dalton (vocals), Muskox‘s Jeremy Strachan (saxophone), Cuff The Duke‘s Francois Turenne (guitar), and Two-Minute Miracles‘ Justin Nace (pedal steel).

Album opener “Waiting For Christine” profiles the early artistic life of Vincent Van Gogh and the sacrifices he made to perfect his art. “Pool Hoppin’” is a poppy retelling of a romantic misunderstanding while “Dressed Up” keeps things up tempo, infusing synthy nods to The Cars. Tracks “Burning Sun” and “Actress” look at the beauty and promise of the night before through day-after glasses. “Thank You Mr. V” draws on life advice from late author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Morrissette gives voice to the Balloon Boy scandal victim on “Falcon Song” and retells the story of Murakami’s “Wind Up Bird”. Album closer “Eddie and Rita” is an opus to love told through the story of Morrissette’s late grandparents and, like “Waiting For Christine”, is a testament to the importance of sacrifice.

After earning critical praise from the likes of Pitchfork, Uncut and Americana UK (Album of 2007), being featured prominently on Grey’s Anatomy (2010), appearing at the SXSW, Pop Montreal, Sled Island and CMJ festivals, and extensive touring of North America and Europe, Waiting in The Well finds Octoberman set to build on the foundation their previous work has laid. Throughout the album is the permeation of a voice deeply connected with its subject, weary and worn and willing to dive below the surface to understand its root. Yes, on the surface the album is about waiting, but a careful listen to the songs reveals something deeper lurking in the well. The result is Octoberman’s strongest and most personal album to date.

To whet the appetite before the album’s March 2012 release, an ep’s worth of bonus material was released earlier this Fall.

- Steve St. Amand

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