- Fierce Panda
By Erika Harwood, Woodpigeon Review
Published February 26, 2013
In the three years since he released his last full-length album, Mark Andrew Hamilton (aka Woodpigeon) has loved, traveled and reminisced on his woodsy childhood in Canada. Life experiences like these are natural folk-album fillers, but Woodpigeon’s latest, Thumbtacks and Glue, manages to exceed the average assumptions, even if only slightly.
Thumbtacks and Glue
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Thumbtacks and Glue builds slowly and takes its time, almost unable to garner full attention from listeners until halfway through the album. Even in great attempts at creating a full sound in “Red Rover, Red Rover,” Hamilton’s light vocals are lost in layers of backing vocals and instrumentation. Both “Sufferin’ Suckatash” and “Edinburgh” seem to lack a distinct focus and struggle to keep the interest of listeners. Songs like these make it easy to zone out, only to realize that one song has ended, and the one on is halfway over.
Despite these occasional missteps, Hamilton’s instrumental experimentation throughout the album is notable. “Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard” begins with sounds of a distorted electric guitar, whose sound escapes through a tiny amp Hamilton describes as both “scrappy” and “brilliant.” The sound seems out of place, juxtaposing all expectations for a folk album conceived by a man whose work has been likened to Sufjan Stevens’s and Simon & Garfunkel’s, but these moments of experimentation manage to give the album life and intrigue.
On “Little Wings,” Woodpigeon proves that these risks have the potential to pay off. A majority of the sounds come from the wet rims of wine glasses (is it safe to assume this idea came from countless viewings of “Miss Congeniality"?). Luckily for Woodpigeon, these wine glasses work a little better for this song than they did for Sandra Bullock in the talent competition. In addition to the hauntingly beautiful and unique contribution of formal glassware, the soft backing vocals consist of Hamilton reading a book he found in the studio but put in reverse. In theory, this should all sound like an undergrad’s poorly done project on New Media art, but Woodpigeon approaches it in in a way that creates one of the most alluring points of the album.
Thumbtacks and Glue proves to be worthwhile as a collective thanks to Hamilton’s willingness to embark on a journey of risk. Though the album loses steam at points, Woodpigeon’s commitment to artistry and experimentation is admirable, if not impressive. In the end, the intentions and anecdotes behind the songs are what take the album from dull to charismatic. The makeshift instrumentation and sincere narratives of Thumbtacks and Glue promote a feeling of being at summer camp: sitting outside with friends and singing songs with whatever instruments nature supplies — assuming that nature is supplying wine glasses.