Campfire Sigh – Different Peninsulas – Album Review
Interesting band full of colorful sound here, no doubt about that…you can tell they know their music history and have a genuine respect for it…and I dig that. Now…naturally, it’d be fair to assume that of course – we know one of the players from Campfire Sigh is Nate Jacobucci, who we’ve reviewed a couple times on these pages of ours…once solo, and once in another band known as Butterfist Funhouse – and because like…there’s probably still some hours in the day somewhere, he’s also part of this band we’re checking out today as well. Ya gotta admire the dedication y’all…Nate’s a continuous music-maker, and we’re all about that here…so full salute to you our Canadian brother, and to the rest of Campfire Sigh. Seems like this five-piece has been rockin’ since around the end of 2017-ish…and depending on where ya look, you’ll find different EPs have been released on different pages, in addition to their main albums Brother Sun (2017) and Sister Moon (2020). Different Peninsulas is apparently not part of the family lineage, but that’s alright…it still sounds closely related, and I ain’t here to judge that.
Anyhow! You’ve got a multiple-singer scenario goin’ on here. Nate takes on the first track, called “What A World We Live In / Flight Of The Anchovies” and kicks things into gear. Great rhythm in this tune, and like you’ll learn this record to be as it plays on – it’s ambitious material. From the complexity of the structure, to all that’s involved within the sound…Campfire Sigh gives your ears a whole lot to pay attention to, but more crucially, earns that attention through their collectively innovative ways. While I’m probably more partial to the melody & hooks that the song begins with, I’m definitely not taking any points away from how “What A World We Live In / Flight Of The Anchovies” morphs into its instrumentally-driven final moments – like I said, this is interesting stuff – Campfire Sigh is an interesting band. Clearly they’re not out to just do what’s been done, and I dig that. Lyrically, it’s zany…I mean…the whole track is wild when it comes right down to it, so why wouldn’t the words match the sound when that’s the case, right? They proudly embrace their weirdness and use it like the asset it truly is…and as a result, we get all kinds of uniqueness from the lefts to the rights as they start their new album. All five of these dudes deserve real credit though…there are no weaknesses that can be heard in their musicianship that I can hear, and everyone contributes significantly to the tunes they’re creating. It’s “a spectrum of ideas, getting’ blurred into a haze” – and it makes for one heck of an engaging start.
If you wanna hear music with LIFE in its veins though…good gravyboat lighthouse y’all – you’ll find it in the second track called “Junebugs / Tin Whistle Theme” – and it’s hard to argue that Jeremy Rusu doesn’t steal the show here. Dude plays alto sax, baritone sax, trombone, trumpet, alto & bass & tenor & soprano recorders…penny whistles…all with ONE MOUTH. So obviously, he’s just superhuman, and right on…always good to have someone in your band that is whenever you can. The bass of Cody Rey Valentonis is a continual standout through the whole lineup of songs on this record…the drums from Dan Deurbrouck completely rock the socks as well…the rhythm section of this band is impeccably strong, and you’ll hear how precise they are as an entire unit, every time they make a transition into a new part. They’ve got the advantage of three great singers in this band, all with unique voices of their own – and yet here, on track two, they prove they don’t need a single damn one of’em if they wanna grab your full attention…”Junebugs / Tin Whistle Theme” is easily one of the most incredible instrumental cuts I’ve heard this year, and it’s a track I’d never want to leave my playlist. Progressive, jazzy, with elements of big-band in there too…I mean…this whole song is a smorgasbord of all-things-awesome, and it’s addictive AF. Not only does it sound great with what they’ve written & what they’re playing – but it’s the kind of song that FEELS GOOD to listen to, know what I mean? This is the sound of real unity & vision in action…Campfire Sigh plays this second cut with remarkable purpose & passion in every move.
And so, somewhat naturally as a result, “Whispers From The Dream” ends up with one of the toughest spots to fill in the lineup…but let’s be clear – ANY song would have struggled coming after the massive victory achieved on “Junebugs / Tin Whistle Theme” – that’s the reality of how amazing that song really IS. I think Grant Prosser ends up with my favorite moment with his guitar solo in the fourth minute…or it could also be Nate’s piano around the same time…no wait…maybe it’s Cody’s bass solo…you get the idea – it’s probably just about everything between around 4:00-5:30 that seemed to be the highlight for my ears on “Whispers From The Dream.” I have no real issues with the song itself. I’d be the first to tell ya it’s a bit more of a stretch for the average everyday listener overall…but there’s still plenty of unique ideas at work, clever details in the background layers, and real drama involved in the dynamics threaded into the dreaminess. “Whispers From The Dream” invites the theatrical element into Campfire Sigh’s sound a bit more…and for many folks, that’ll be another winning combination to be found on this album – I’m probably a bit more on the fence about it. I feel like the main hooks come through, but as a whole it’s a little less balanced in terms of what we catches our ears effortlessly, and what we have to nearly strain to concentrate on & follow along with. I ain’t opposed to doin’ the work within a listening experience y’all…especially when I know it’s anything related to the Prog genre – I mean, heck – I’d be a fool not to expect it! All I’m saying is…there’s something seriously magical in between 4:00-5:30 in “Whispers From The Dream” that keep us all completely captivated without nearly as much complexity. It’s something to consider is all…sometimes we make things difficult for ourselves as musicians & artists, and the real answer to combatting that is to be as objective as you can & listen for what’s really working. That doesn’t mean you have to DO that…people make art & music for all kinds of different reasons, and I salute them all in their own way…but yeah…objectively, I’m tellin’ ya there are parts of “Whispers From The Dream” that come out with more accessibility than others, and those are the real golden highlights.
“Jagged” almost has an Elvis-like tinge to its vibe. And if you’ve ever read about my tortured twenties being spent living underneath a lady that would blast Elvis at 5am systematically every single day…you know I have to respectfully bow out here. Decent tune…I don’t just surrender easily – I still listen, it’s just a sound that’s predisposed to not bein’ my favorite is all. I think there are stellar things about it – from Nate’s raspy vocals, to the incredible guitar solo from Grant, to the relentlessly killer bass-lines from Cody…there’s lots to dig on throughout “Jagged,” and there’s a jazzier thread to its rhythmic cool than you’d find in most tunes by Elvis anyway…so I really shouldn’t complain. And I’m not really…it’s just not my favorite cut of the bunch is all – did anyone out there expect that all fourteen songs on Different Peninsulas were going to be in a tie for first place? C’mon y’all…we all like what we like & love what we love. “Jagged” actually reminds me a lot of something you’d find in the music of Richard Cheese, and I listen to a whole lot from that guy…so there you go…I ain’t hatin’ – I’m just tellin’ ya like it is. “Jagged” is alright to me, and for a bunch of you out there, it’ll be irresistible – high-fives to us all.
It’s interesting to hear how similar their voices can be, even with them each having their own different styles. For a moment, I was convinced that “Dollar Store Hippies” was being sung by Cody, but it turned out to be one of Grant’s tunes. They’re interchangeable, and that’s a rad advantage that Campfire Sigh has. There’s also no real excuse to ever cancel a show on account of a head-cold either though…so there’s that I suppose…just because one dude can’t sing for the night doesn’t mean they’ll just get a free pass when there are three singers available. Like many of their tunes however – I still feel like the real core strengths are within the musicianship. I dig the like…Turtles-esque vibe of how Grant’s vocals sound – that works…but yeah man…listening to the music come alive in the final minute of “Dollar Store Hippies” is something else to experience altogether…that’s a freakin’ moment to remember and revere. Good shimmer & shine to a throwback sound here all around though…and I dig the way that they merge the past with the present as “Dollar Store Hippies” carries on, eventually taking them out of that sound you’d find comparable to The Turtles into something more typically found in Beck’s music by the end.
“Rotting Away” has a smart design to it…lyrically, I felt like this is potentially one of the most tangible cuts on the record too. It seems to deal with self-doubts or societal doubts for the most part…or realizing our deficiencies somehow…but ultimately, still kind of has a bit of hopefulness threaded into its message. All-in-all, I get more of a Ben Folds-esque vibe to the writing in this song…more-so than the sound I’d say – but yeah…just that very visceral type of tune with vivid lyricism & vibe combined…and still a bunch of hooks in the mix for ya to enjoy, albeit more on the raw side of things. I guess that’s where I’m at here – there’s something about “Rotting Away” that still feels like it could be polished 10% more somehow…but just like the feeling I get from anything to do with Folds when he’s in that same gear – I’ll take what I can get, because the genius of it all tends to outweigh any slight imperfections. Sometimes that can even become a bit more helpful in endearing ourselves to a song…like we end up rooting for a song like “Rotting Away” to succeed, because there’s a bit more of an audible air of trying something in this cut – make sense? Think of it like this…compared to how rehearsed & ready to roll something like “Junebugs / Tin Whistle Theme” was, “Rotting Away” sounds & feels like it just came out of incubation. Still a solid tune by every measure when it comes right down to it, but chances are, “Rotting Away” is going to go on to become even stronger over time, whereas “Junebugs / Tin Whistle Theme” is already entirely bulletproof right now – that’s the difference. I still like the dark groove to it.
I really like the spark that Cody brings to the mic on “Nothing We Can Do” in his comeback…this is the fire you wanna hear him singing with, and I felt like he was just short of that when we heard him take the lead vocals earlier on. The material seems stronger here too…odder perhaps, but stronger all the same. As a person that has listened to this entire record many times by now, I have it on good authority that Cody’s got some serious fireworks still waiting for ya before this album is over, further down the set-list – but in terms of the first half, I think we get more out of him fronting “Nothing We Can Do.” Solid piano melody, good Alternative energy in the atmosphere…great guitar solo from Grant once again, who seems to be incredibly reliable when it comes to supplyin’ one of those for ya. I’m not gonna be the guy to tell ya that “Nothing We Can Do” still isn’t fundamentally niche when it comes to its style & sound overall – it is – but there’s an inherent playfulness to the back & forth vibe of how this song plays on that’s got quite a bit of appeal to it. Plus there’s that whole synth solo goin’ on too…that’s a memorable highlight as well – it’s the shortest track on the record, but there’s a fiercely entertaining performance put into this tune that should at the very least get the people out there paying attention.
For a song called “Beach Of Teeth,” the sound of it ends up being a lot more gentle than you’d probably be anticipating. Cody’s taken the lead on this track too in back-to-back duties…and this would be an example of where I think he probably could have found an approach to a lot of this track that might have worked out even better. It’s not at all what I’d call bad – just noticeably uneven, as in, we get some genuine highlights, and a bunch of spots that seem to drift just wide of the mark too. Overall, I think there’s a song here…there are some extremely cool parts to “Beach Of Teeth” and some even better ideas in the melody…but it’s another ambitious track that doesn’t quite seem to get to where they wanna go with it. Close, but not quite there. Personally, I really like how it gets darker in the middle of this song…it actually sounds like the clouds are beginning to storm over top of the “Beach Of Teeth” as we listen, and it morphs brilliantly through a sinister sounding second instrumental-half. Well – instrumental minus the maniacal laughter I suppose, but you get what I mean. Campfire Sigh has proven time & time again to be more expressive musically than they are in the vocal department…and I dunno…I think that, even with three people that can certainly sing & be the front-dude guiding the song along…they might wanna have a real conversation about what’s bringing the best in their material. To me, if Campfire Sigh was an all-instrumental band…I mean…call me crazy, but I think they’d really crush it. That’s not to take anything away from any one singer they’ve got, or all of them either – it’s simply a comment that without the added element of lyricism/vocals to absorb, the music would speak volumes on its own behalf…that’s my take. Take “Beach Of Teeth” as the litmus test on that if you like…listen to the way the music moves throughout this song, and you’ll realize the story is threaded into its very DNA. Do the vocals help or hinder it, that’s the question? And I’m talkin’ lead here in general I guess…I like what backing vocals, spoken word, and things like laughter can bring to instrumentally-dominant tunes. As far as Cody goes, I felt like his best moments come through the final verse before “Beach Of Teeth” starts to make its most major transitions in the vibe & get all kinds of mysterious around the 3:30 mark.
They end up closer to what you’d find in something like Band Of Horses on “Lucid Snowglobe” – and that certainly works for me. I have…no clue who’s actually singing this one…they’ve all got a credit for the lead vocals on this song at their page at Bandcamp…and with the qualities in the tone of their voices being so similar, it’s actually possible it COULD be all three of them as opposed to a typo. Or maybe they’re that close stylistically that they each take a verse and we’d be left to scratch our heads trying to figure out who’s who…it’s really tough to say who’s doin’ what here. Like…my gut seems to wanna tell me that it’s Grant…not only from what I hear, but what I see in the fact that the liner-notes say he’s only taken on the lead role in three cuts…so you’d assume they made sure to know which three those are, right? Anyhow. I like what I hear…I guess that’s probably more of what you’d wanna know than all these details of me getting lost within their music…”Lucid Snowglobe” works out really well, and the melody they’ve written into this song is a memorable highlight on this record for sure. Like…hmm…how would I put this…I guess what I’m saying is, you might make it two or three spins through this record before you realize you’re hearing a song like “Dollar Store Hippies” or “Nothing We Can Do” multiple times, whereas a song like “Lucid Snowglobe” has the kind of hooks you’ll instantly recognize when you hear it again. And you’ll probably be singing along with’em too…which is cool…there’s not too many of those kind of moments on this album, but “Lucid Snowglobe” has’em if you want’em…you know you do. Great guitars & drums in this tune, and I always think the bass is as rock solid as bass could ever truly be.
Some really unique sounds and sonic textures within “Correct Century” – and some things that really work great – the melody is creative, the solo around the two-minute mark is genius, and the overall vibe of this song has a solid range of shifting moods to it. Vocals-wise…I’m probably still gonna stand by what I mentioned earlier in terms of whether or not things are becoming stronger with them added into what Campfire Sigh does, or if these tracks could potentially be even more potent without’em. “Correct Century” flashes some real brilliance at points along the way…maybe even too brilliant to a degree – I found myself thinking that ol’ familiar thought of ‘all this effort has been put into a song people won’t be able to hang with’ again…and that’s always a tragic story when it comes to makin’ music. A lot of the songs we put our hearts & souls into become just another song to other people listening, if they’re even listening at all. “Correct Century” finds its most successful moments through its most repetitive spots in the melody, like the hook in “must be still and listen”…and ultimately, the song ends up recovering from its somewhat camp at the very beginning by the end of it all as it morphs and changes up along the way. It’s kind of like a song that plays in individual pieces a la carte, you feel me? You’ll pick out this thing or that thing that you’ll like or love, but at times, wonder how the heck this all got put onto the same plate.
Style points are a weird thing to go for sometimes…and there’s no doubt that there is a LOT of risk to seeking them out when it comes to recorded music. Like…I listen to “Headless Grasshopper” and think that Grant’s done lost his mind at points when it comes to the vocals…and yet, in this same very song, at other spots, I think he gives you some of his absolutely undeniable best in a bid to become THE lead singer of the three! So go figure that one…I’ve got no clue as to why things are what they are or why people choose to do what they do. To me, there are ways to make “Headless Grasshopper” universally appealing from start to finish…and the changes required certainly ain’t hard to make…it’s just about taking the few questionable moments outta the vocals and making them as golden smooth as the rest has already come out – we ain’t asking for much, right? But that’s just the thing…when everything is going so RIGHT for Campfire Sigh in the vast majority of this song, you have to assume that they’ve CHOSEN to go left instead of right…that the deviation serves a purpose. The question becomes, does it serve a purpose that benefits them as artists, us as listeners, or the song itself? I have my theory on what the answer is there…but I do respect the fact that they’re willing to try out different things with their music – that ultimately takes creative courage, and this band is fully loaded with that. There are some tremendous positives in “Headless Grasshopper” from the design of the melody to the lyricism – and…yeah…I suppose, for me, it’s about percentages really…when your song is 95% smooth on a melodic level, I’m inclined to say that making sure the other 5% reaches that same level, or we notice it, but not for the right reasons. You wanna know the best part about saying all this? The proof of what I’m saying to be true is that I don’t need to tell them WHICH parts I’m talking about – they already know. The only thing I really wrestle with, is whether or not “Headless Grasshopper” is still my second or third favorite on this record, even despite the handful of few things I wish had been polished up a little more.
The main hooks on “Counterfeit Mystic / Bite Mark Comparison Techniques” could very well be the most memorable highlights to be found on the entire album if I’m bein’ real with ya. The verses are pretty decent too…don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining – I’m just saying that the main melodic payload within this tune is seriously addictive, and the personality threaded into this cut makes a huge difference overall. Great backing vocals, great execution by everyone involved – but really, it comes down to the strength in the material here, and the way it moves in such a cohesive way…I think people are gonna really end up loving “Counterfeit Mystic / Bite Mark Comparison Techniques.” Albums like this one are nearly impossible to know what would make for a great single & whatnot…but I’d be taking a good look at “Counterfeit Mystic / Bite Mark Comparison Techniques” as the track to draw people in. It’s like Beirut on crack…and that’s kind of charming, kind of strange, kind of wonderful when it comes right down to it…I can tell ya for certain is that this track is definitely among the album’s most brilliantly addictive without a doubt, and that it unquestionably contains a whole lotta single-worthy sound too.
I was probably the most tossed up over the inclusion of “We Aren’t Captured (We’re Gone)” and whether or not it really fit this particular lineup of songs. It’s not a bad tune…but it’s harder to argue that it furthers this record, especially considering the fact that it’s got fourteen songs on it. Y’all know what I always say on these pages of ours…well…at least my three & half regular readers do anyhow – there are about five or six perfect records with twelve songs or less on’em…and like…none with fourteen. Maybe there’s one out there somewhere, but you get where I’m going with what I’m sayin’ – it’s freakin’ TOUGH to achieve to say the least. At seven-plus minutes in length, what’s kind of crucial at track thirteen in terms of attention spans out there, is that we get to this moment & KNOW that it HAD to be included, rather than question it – make sense? “We Arn’t Captured (We’re Gone)” has the slight advantage of a very memorable main hook…the one featured in the title of this tune…that part works perfectly – but as for the rest, it kind of feels like we’re in a boat, rowing slowly in the middle of sea, to somewhere. On my worst spins through this song, I felt like it needed some kind of inspiration or spark to it…and on my best, I felt like the main hook alone was more than enough to warrant its inclusion. All-in-all, I think that, for as gentle as it appears, “We Arn’t Captured (We’re Gone)” could end up being one of the most polarizing points on Different Peninsulas, and potentially the most debated inclusion of the whole set. No doubt that it’s got its good points, and reveals a bit of a more meandering idea as well when it comes right down to it…but again…seven minutes of length on a fourteen track album makes a moment like this turn instantly into a tall ask for the listeners in terms of what will keep them engaged.
They finish things off by gettin’ heavy with the synths as “Memories Of Childhood: Featuring Sleep Paralysis, UFO, Hornet Attack, And A Dog” begins. I love titles like these…they practically do the work for me! If I write out “Memories Of Childhood: Featuring Sleep Paralysis, UFO, Hornet Attack, And A Dog” every time I’m referring to “Memories Of Childhood: Featuring Sleep Paralysis, UFO, Hornet Attack, And A Dog,” will have ourselves a healthy paragraph in no time at all – thanks “Memories Of Childhood: Featuring Sleep Paralysis, UFO, Hornet Attack, And A Dog!” Alright…I feel like I’ve made my point. Anyhow…titles like these tend to go down even better live from the stage anyhow…you announce something like “Memories Of Childhood: Featuring Sleep Paralysis, UFO, Hornet Attack, And A Dog” and everyone gets a moment to have a chuckle. What’ll silence them immediately is the kickass riffs from the keys and the bass in this cut – Campfire Sigh showed up to close out this record in style! Cody is essentially the backbone of this tune, taking on both the bass & vocals of this last track – but make no mistake, Dan’s drums are essential here, as are the synths from Grant & the Moog from Nate. No doubt that “Memories Of Childhood: Featuring Sleep Paralysis, UFO, Hornet Attack, And A Dog” is an incredibly ambitious tune, but it’s also one of the record’s most fully-realized ideas in bloom too…it takes an extraordinary amount of skill to pull something as progressively inventive off as this song is. It’s the kind of track that makes you definitely wonder about how their creative process works & how songs of this sheer magnitude are able to come together, and be executed as well as they are. It could be a matter of practice, practice, practice…and likely so – but whatever their methods may be, LISTEN to the results will ya? Hearing Campfire Sigh rip through this last cut, sliding their way smoothly into different parts and snapping right back into their main hooks and riffs along the journey is nothing short of pure awesomeness…it’s the record’s longest song, and the best compliment I can give them is that I would have taken this nine-minute masterpiece at TWICE the length and never complained. It’s essentially as adventurous as sound can potentially ever be, played with undeniable passion on all-fronts, with more hooks than you’ll be able to count, and more accessibility than you’d expect to find in anything Prog-related, or of this enormous of a time frame. It’s a heck of a way to close out a record, this much I can assure ya…and it definitely had me rushing back to repeat this brilliantly zany experience many times.
Find more music by Campfire Sigh at Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7EQ5pLLlXURXnepXe620Ws
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