Klarka Weinwurm: Continental Drag
Klarka Weinwurm is a recluse. Not only does she keep a low profile, but her songs seem to reflect her smoke-and-mirrors identity. Her brand of folk-rock is hushed and reserved, echoing the chilled climates of her home in Canada. Her first LP, Continental Drag, displays her talent quietly but powerfully enough to leave a good impression.
Weinwurm’s singing is one of the most unique elements in the album. Somewhere in between Regina Spektor and Lisa Mitchell, Weinwurm’s voice soars in the stratosphere, lending an ethereal feel over the Americana-inspired music. When sometimes backed by fellow musician Jon McKiel, a new dimension comes into play but doesn’t always suit Weinwurm’s vocal style.
The first track, “Pictures,” opens with muted guitars and light drums reminiscent of Silversun Pickups. The backing of a full (but soft) band gives a firm foundation for Weinwurm. In the same, slow-tempo vein, “Houses Shake” opens with the eerie line, “If you will kill you I will haunt you very long.” The song almost ventures into alt-country territory with hints of organ and fiddle but somehow retains its indie sensibility. Weinwurm’s originality is best shown in songs like “Evil All Around,” with gentle strings, a relaxed backbeat, and her voice occasionally lapsing into spoken words and southern-like highs. This song is a good example of Weinwurm’s style: constantly laid-back songs that never explode or swell into bursts of sound.
This positive is also a negative at times, however. In a song like “Coyotes in the Commons,” Weinwurm and the band deliver a soothing tune with elements of Death Cab for Cutie that perfectly suit her voice. However, when the song escalates towards the end, it almost immediately fades and ends, leaving the listener wanting more. This is a fault throughout the album: Weinwurm’s musicality is too quiet at times. To her credit, her voice doesn’t seem powerful enough to support a large, full-band section, but is instead a fragile, delicate glass tone that shouldn’t be broken. This isn’t the only moment on the record that listeners might find a little odd. The countryside ditty “Tractor and Crane” expands from quiet ukelele strumming to an orchestral section that sounds like something The Dear Hunter would use in one of their more rustic songs. The departure is an odd and unexpected move from Weinwurm that might signal her fondness for more niche techniques. The album closes with the self-titled micro-song that, unlike any other songs, is an alt-rock jaunt with the odd lyric, “Continental drag, nobody cares that I like to sing.”
Despite the experimentations, the CD consistently delivers, whether in the head-bopping “Tell Me Something Brave” that jaunts along agreeably (and is arguably the best song on the record), or in the upbeat “Caroline” with easily digestible chord progressions and a hint of a measure change. The snippets of speech, feedback, and count-offs add a touch of realism to the musical painting. Weinwurm’s ability to excel as a singer/songwriter lies in her knack for penning weird yet memorable lyrics and melding them with instrumentals that lazily float in your head. Though succinct, the songs are solid efforts at a distinct blend of charming folk-rock and sleepy indie. Weinwurm has much potential to grow into an even more established singer, and Continental Drag is a great first effort from a unique artist.
MP3: Klarka Weinwurm “Coyotes in the Commons”