The Canvas Waiting - In Search of Beginnings
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: January 8, 2007
There's normally a good reason why small bands are small. With the amazing whizz-bang technology of the internet at our fingertips, the buzz can build up in a matter of months, national tours can be organised and major labels will lap up whatever milk will grant them that extra little bit of income. So if, despite all this, a band still remains small, with only a local notoriety at best, 99 times out of 100 it's because they deserve to be. Reviewing such albums is horrible. It's never nice trashing someone else's creative output, but if it's not worthy of a higher score then there's nothing a reviewer can do. This makes it all the better when you come across a band who seem so small they're practically non-existent and completely fall in love with the record they've laid out in front of you. For me this was the case when I first listened to The Canvas Waiting's In Search of Beginnings.
I had no expectations when I came to this album. I simply fancied trying out some new music and picked In Search of Beginnings entirely at random. What I ended up listening to was easily one of the best debuts I've heard in a long time. Stylistically, The Canvas Waiting echo bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Dashoard Confessional, their songs being generally mournful and sad. Although certainly not as full of despair, In Search of Beginnings has a very similar effect to Chris Carrabba's The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, putting a chill in the spine and a hole in the stomach. "Carousel Ride" looks back on the regrets of a wasted youth, "Ruby" remembers a lost love and "I Hope the West Treats You Well" deals with family problems, offering a stronger variety of themes for heartbreak than usual. On occasion the mood lifts somewhat; "Exit 1028" offers hope for rekindling what was lost and "These Familiar Arms" displays a desire to make up for previous faults. However, the overall theme, as well as the personality with which these songs are woven, does not suggest that a sunny disposition instigated the writing of these songs, and anyone who finishes listening to the album with a broad grin on their face must be able to boast a brain chemistry I can't fathom. That's not to say the album is crushing or depressing though, balancing finely on the edge while never falling in. It's a wistful album, provoking personal memories easily relatable to the gamut of issues being dealt with on the album. It makes you think, remember and, more often than not, mourn an age old loss, but it never leaves you without some degree of hope.
Musically, the band are very impressive. The four final tracks are acoustic, and are much more raw as a result. However, the tracks featuring the full band are where The Canvas Waiting really shine, and show they know exactly when to drop the pace and when to up the ante. The quiet and loud dynamic is perfectly balanced, and the whole album is immediately accessible. Some occasional tracks are more upbeat, at least musically if not lyrically. "Exit 1028" really gets moving by the end and is a refreshing change of pace, and the same could be said for "Opener". In general though, the music is created to reflect the lyrics, and this means simple, slow, brooding numbers in general, occasionally lit up by the huge voice of the lead singer, and these vocals are where In Search of Beginnings really shines. While often understated, when they're really let go they soar high above the music, with a tone and pitch that never breaks or even wavers. It's not a typical "alternative" voice, being much more mainstream than Dallas Green or Chris Carrabba's perfectly honed high-pitched efforts, but it suits the sound perfectly.
Lyrically the content is strong but nothing different from the standard. They are incredibly corny on occasion, talking about always being able to count on love, and how an ex-girlfriend used to grow azaleas and read the Bible. In general though, they're exactly what you want them to be. Being of a typical nature, it's easy to believe that each word was written for whatever experience we associate with that particular song and it's that kind of personal bond that has allowed Chris Carabba to reach the heights he has. The production for a band as small as this is close to immaculate. It may lack the sheen of a major label equivalent, but it certainly sounds very accomplished and not in the slightest bit rough and unfinished.
In Search of Beginnings may not quite be perfect and it won't appeal to everybody, but I really can't understand why The Canvas Waiting aren't bigger than they are. If there were any justice in the world, Brokencyde would be dropped immediately and every little push they received would be send towards The Canvas Waiting and the few bands like them who truly deserve a wider audience. Maybe it's just me; perhaps other people who listen to this album will fail to hear what I have, to be moved in the same way. I hope not though, because if you give The Canvas Waiting a chance, just an hour or so out of your day, I'm sure you'll find your new favourite band. While they may be small, their scope and vision transcend their humble surroundings. We may have to find another diamond in the rough, but hopefully that means this particular one can be brought up to shine for all to see.