Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Royal City's lovely odds 'n' ends

Although unknown to me until recently, Canadian musical collective Royal City has included some very notable names during its brief lifespan from 1999 to 2004. Primarily a songwriting vehicle for Aaron Riches, the band also featured Jim Guthrie as a member and collaborated with Leslie Feist, Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy), and Bobby Wiseman (Blue Rodeo) at one time or another. The band has garnered more than their fair share of critical acclaim and what appears to be a solid following despite only having lasted five years. I'm wondering now how it's possible for me to have overlooked this supergroup (of sorts), but I'm awfully glad for the late introduction that came with their recently released, self-titled b-sides and rarities collection.

Royal City, the album, is exactly what you'd expect from a record of its type, an uneven but generally strong collection of tunes that covers a wide range of stylistic territory. The first half of the album is especially great, with the brash opener, "Here Comes Success," the plaintive "Can't You Hear Me Calling," and the melancholy "Postcards" providing an excellent start. I'm sure there are plenty of gems here to be found by those more familiar with the band's work (like the pleasant waltz cover of the Strokes' "Is This It?"), but even the uninitiated will be able to appreciate the songwriting and musical craft that fills much of the 40 minutes.

You can download "Can't You Hear Me Calling" and "A Belly Was Made For Wine" from the new record below. Both should give you a good idea of Royal City's endearing folk-rock sound that makes even their b-sides collection an album worth exploring. The record is out today on Asthmatic Kitty.

Can't You Hear Me Calling (MP3)

A Belly Was Made For Wine (MP3)