At first, a strong late-’90s alternative vibe emanates from The Prize, the second full-length effort from Toronto trio A Primitive Evolution. Indeed, singer Brett Carruthers could easily join a Soundgarden cover band to pay some bills if the need ever arises. But to say this record belongs wholly to that bygone era would be inaccurate. Certainly similarities exist – the attitude, the not-always-expected chord changes – but, particularly in this record’s instrumentation, APE shows that they’ve got something all their own to offer their listeners.
What’s really cool about The Prize, especially on the faster tracks, is that there’s a genuine groove here. Songs are propelled not by crunchy electric guitars (those do show up, to be sure, but they’re deployed more strategically) but almost always by singer Carruthers’ unplugged strumming and the drumming of Stu Dead. Dead kills it here (sorry, I couldn’t resist), playing with a deliberate force that lets you know this record has somewhere to go. It’s as if he’s hitting his snare just a split-second before the actual downbeat, making sure that his band (and his listeners) remain on their toes. This tactic is on full display in the opening punches of “Lord of Reason” and “Show Me” and it keeps things engaging throughout.
On slightly (only slightly) softer tracks like “I Feel It All” and “The Dead”, the group channels more of an acoustic Live vibe, as gloomy minor-key progressions intertwine with uplifting major-key choruses sung with grandeur. Carruthers covers a wide range on this album both sonically and emotionally, and it’s a joy listening to him explore this territory.
The production on this record, too, should be lauded. The combined efforts of the band and John Wozniak, lead singer/guitarist of the band Marcy Playground, make this disc sound instantly radio-ready. Drums thunder, vocals punch, and the acoustic guitar carries it all along in a low-mid-range flow; everything in the mix has room to breathe and nothing feels washed-out or less than crisp. At the same time, it’s pretty surprising that APE is just a trio (besides Carruthers and Dead there’s also bassist Stephany Seki); these three really know how to round out their sound, because it never feels like this record is missing anything.
Certainly fans of heavy-ish alternative rock will be the easiest converts to APE’s sound, although classic, folk and indie rockers can also find lots to enjoy here. The musicianship on this record is top-notch, and Carruthers’ efforts in particular prevent The Prize from being too easily pidgeonholed into a single genre. With their sharp songwriting and their production, APE looks primed for a promising career indeed.
Check out more from A Primitive Evolution on their website!
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more