Stream the group’s sixth album ahead of its release next Friday
Note: NPR’s First Listen audio stops after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.
When Taylor Kirk and his Timber Timbre acolytes left for France a year ago to record their latest album, Sincerely, Future Pollution, they imagined a sound that you could dance to, that deserved to be celebrated. For more than a decade, the Montreal group – led by Kirk, who does much of the writing and recording – explored the gnarled and dark corners of rock, evolving from beams of sun-bleached cabin (Wood stamp) to 70s country music (Hot dreams). None of it was exactly what made you tremble, other than a narcotized swinging in the corner of a plywood bar. Sincerely, Future Pollution neither is it. But this might not be the time to dance.
“I got the idea that we could do something fun. Which… we can’t,” Kirk laughed in a measured whisper from a phone in his rehearsal room in the east. Montreal.
Instead of, Sincerely, Future Pollution is another window into Kirk’s gently clouded sensibility, this time filtered through holistic collaborations with the supporting cast of Timber Timbre, keyboardist Mathieu Charbonneau and guitarist / bassist Simon Trottier. The trip is accompanied by a multitude of electronic prototypes that the trio found in this French studio where they recorded their sixth album. “We were using a palette that I didn’t think was ours,” Kirk said. These unknown instruments give the album a Reaganist patina, a vintage sound that seems too relevant these days.
Sincerely, Future Pollution deals more directly with this discomfort on “Western Questions”, which opens with a fast guitar melody before sinking into a burlesque swoon. Kirk exhales: “International witness protection / By mass migration / Imminent land surrender. Tucked away safely / At the counter of a luxury liner / With a noose in his hand.” It’s evocative of urban failure and our modern dilemma of smooth disbelief. It ends, improbably, with a festive drum bridge worthy of Phil Collins and a guitar hook as indelible and catchy as Hall & Oates could hope.
“Moment” is perhaps the most beautiful and touching love song that Timber Timbre – a band that has always had a knack for picking up frustrated lamentations for those who are not shared – has ever written. It opens, after a wash of those chronologically frozen synths, with a buried bass and a questioning drum line, while Kirk speaks quietly: “Timing’s off / And all is lost / And I know it. / The essences disappear / And with each dose the price / Of a memory. ” The frustration of feeling unworthy, of loving what you have in your hands despite this shame, is shattered by the end of the song, a perpendicular tantrum ragged with sheer frustration. (This character in “Moment,” questioning what he deserves, his agency, and the means to keep or throw him away, is an ongoing presence in Kirk’s work.)
Sincerely, Future Pollution is a document stirred for surreal times. Where Timber Timbre previously attracted us in his stealthy visions of the winter woods or 16mm strip clubs, this time Kirk is drawn to us. The group seems, understandably, to be wary of the overthrow.
Sincerely, Future Pollution released on April 7 City slang records.