Today’s Sounds: Karim Ouellet

In an attempt to make up for our lack of francophonics, we dig into Fox by Quebec star Karim Ouellet, and kind of like what we find. Also, a track by the Canadian band with the American nightmare name (Lee Harvey Osmond) and even more Can-con in the form of a new video from an aging record by Fucked Up.


Karim Ouellet, Fox (Abuzive Muzik)

I don’t often review franco records, and I feel somewhat bad about that. Should music not transcend language, be the one thing that ties us all together? In that spirit, let’s all gather around the peace circle and inhale the potent fumes of Karim Ouellet’s Fox, the current “it” album that the Tout le Monde en Parle wine and cheese crowd is ummm…parler-ing about.

The well-travelled Movezèrbe crew member is a hot commodity these days, and it’s not hard to understand why. He’s an expressive, articulate vocalist. The chords are familiar and jocular. There’s a steady gallop that makes his brand of hyperactive folk-pop easy to follow, and there are even perfunctory dabs of unpredictable instrumentation (to show off his wide range of musical tastes). It’s a fun record, perhaps more appropriate for the summertime instead of the last days of 2012. The title song even stomps along briskly. So why was I feeling hoodwinked by the end?

Simply put, like a lot of its contemporaries, it’s overproduced. There’s excess studio fluff, and it’s really bouncy (or sing-songy, if you will), to the point where one becomes convinced brassy numbers like “Le lapin blanc” were designed as potential commercial jingles. The drum loops are often generic stock, and there are hardly any moments that aren’t handclap- and whistle-friendly. There seems to be a desire to show off just how many styles he can capture without losing his easygoing flow, but try as they might to sand away the rough edges, Ouellet’s a singing and strumming guy at heart. Save the glockenspiels, dub interludes and string sections for someone blander.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also note that “La moindre des choses” is a dead ringer for Sting’s putrid “Englishman in New York,” and I can’t shake memories of the frosted tips of Citizen King while listening to the opening track. “Décembre avec Sarahmée” goes for the Bon Iver-doing-’80s schmaltz, but inexplicably stumbles out of the gate with terrible autotunage. At best, Ouellet’s an engaging presence, like on album highlight “Cyclone.” It’s just everything around him that tries too hard to keep up.


Lee Harvey Osmond, “Devil’s Load”

Great band name, right? It almost makes you forget that the man behind it was involved in Junkhouse and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Lee Harvey Osmond’s sophomore LP, The Folk Sinner (feat. such Can-icons as the Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins, Hawksley Workman, Oh Susanna), is out Jan. 15, 2013 on Latent Recordings. The song also appears on the soundtrack from My Father and the Man in Black.



Fucked Up, “Inside a Frame”

And you thought the David Comes to Life album cycle was history. Here’s a new video from Toronto’s Fucked Up, a surprisingly easy juxtaposition of hardcore-esque song and teen dance drama. The band reportedly “had a lot of fun not having anything to do with making it at all.”

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