The Acorn Tin Fist [EP]

[Paper Bag; 2007]

Styles: wispy forest pop, manufactured sleep tunes
Others: Califone, The Dears, Anathallo, Wilco, Voxtrot

You enter the heart of the forest in the dead middle of winter with your wicker basket, and you’re not going to leave without something to show for it. You glance behind and see that your footsteps have disappeared, almost as if you’d never trudged down that trail before. The snow tumbles down in blankets that encase you but never make you warmer. The distant road of the future is as blotted out by the cloud of wet dust as the beaten path behind you. A smile crosses the corners of your face when you find comfort in the idea of being lost to a whiteout. Your un-mittened fingers loosen their grip on the hand-woven basket, and it drops to the soft ground as the mound made up of you steadily follows. A giant oak tree in front of you springs to anthropomorphic life, shivering the snow off its branches, calling out your name.

You hesitate to respond, as the flakes build up over your ears. He begins to yelp, and his roots pop out from the ground underneath you, poking you back into consciousness. You lift your weary eyes to the tree and imagine greeting him. The old oak is relieved to finally have your attention, and pops six acorns into your basket as a wind rushes by and sucks out the season. The squeals of The Acorn’s guitars spring you out of the winter in your dreams. Shake the sleep out of your eyes, you weren’t meant to fall into slumber: Ottawa’s fancy chaps and lass The Acorn simply can’t help but be dreamy.

Recently signed to stalwart Canadian label Paper Bag Records, joining Under Byen and Tokyo Police Club, the Tin Fist EP is a reissue of the band’s third release, originally hitting a few chilly shelves last year. Immediately following 2005’s lush and gorgeous Blankets! EP, Tin Fist further captures the sleepy and rousing essences the band brings to every musical potluck.

“Heirlooms” starts the proceedings off in a sleepy haze. Quiet enough not to disturb the neighbors, subtle intricacies fill every nook and cranny of the song (break out ye olde headphones!), and the band adopts a more folky quality. The song works well, much better than later hush-number “Maplebees,” but the extended track length and dreamy quality make it a suspicious choice for the lead track, and may lose some listeners not willing to give a g-d minute of their precious time.

“Dents” picks up the pace a little but never goes anywhere of interest. After the first string of notes in “Brokered Hearts” passes by and the song breaks into a grandiose structure, The Acorn have signaled a neat and tidy encapsulation of their sound in a bundle no more than two-and-a-half minutes long. The song flutters by with handclaps and lyrical heart references, standing tall as a shimmering highlight. “Feral Chile” and “Spring Thaw” prove to be a dynamic twosome, highlighting The Acorn’s penchant for blowing down houses and stomping trails to momentous crescendos. Somehow, each song manages to hit an apex a handful of times and send ears atwitter.

Ultimately, The Acorn have taken a few short leaps in the right general direction. Their production is tops, and the band’s sound is maturing with every breath and pluck. However, a little bit of the charm and epic sound present in spades on the Blankets! EP has been traded in for hushed melodies and slow nights gazing up through the tree-line at the stars. As pretty as they can be, The Acorn lose some of their distinctive qualities with the quieter numbers. When a band can belt out a tune with as much effective power as The Acorn, it’s almost a misdemeanor not to. Regardless, they tend to mix in both sides of their coin to a healthy extent. If it’s any indication of where their next full-length is headed, Tin Fist is a first step to quaint greatness. And until you get a bigger basket, six plump acorns will have to make do in getting you through the winter.

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