With six members playing everything from accordion to xylophone, A Seasonal Disguise is the closest thing Boise has to chamber pop gods Arcade Fire. But on its second album, Waterfowl of Eastern Canada, the band champions a smoother sound than its Canadian contemporaries, one awash in clarinets and soft tones that form the base for guitarist-vocalist Zach Von House's indie-rock croon.
As a whole, it's a good sound that starts strong right out of the gate with the album's first track, "Old Men Smoking Cigarettes in Chevy Luminas," a lagging spacious song that feels like the soundtrack for a lazy cruise down a warm river, complete with a whistled melody. That dreaminess is present through much of the album, even on the French-accordion-pop-influenced songs like "Are You Through Being Abstruse Please" and "Roma."
A major part of what makes the album compelling is the way the dreamy intros often blend into long crescendos of atmospheric swells and rolling drums. This is especially evident on the album's final track, "Borrowed Tooth," which begins as an acoustic ballad but quickly brings a variety of instruments into a complex nine-minute arrangement with strings, percussion, bluesy guitar solos and a giant rock buildup that drives the album to a passage of pizzicato strings, which brings the record to its close.
But Waterfowl of Eastern Canada's one major shortcoming is that much of the album follows that formula for success.
There are a few moments of sonic departure, like the third track, "Trout Fishing in North America," which begins with percussive staccato chords, but quickly circles back to the band's established sound, resolving into layers of smoothly moaning feedback.
The most notable track is "Krug's Fires," which has a lush and haunting blues feel, like a song meant to be listened to with your eyes closed and a pocket full of melancholy. It is easily the strongest track on the album, in large part because it stands so far apart stylistically.
Waterfowl of Eastern Canada has less edge than the band's live show, and many of the songs have such similar production and arrangement that it can make repeated listening tedious. But a bite at a time, it is a masterful work with layers upon layers of sonic intrigue for a listener to dig into.[ Video is no longer available. ]