Small Town Murder Songs Strikes A Chord With The Help Of Bruce Peninsula
Truth be told, I don’t pay much attention to Hollywood. This is for a few reasons. 1) I would say that about four out of every five movies that I see in the theater leave me wanting my money back. 2) I like musicians more than actors. 3) I’ve been without a TV since I made the move to Oregon about two years ago, so I find it pretty hard to keep up with previews.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I don’t do the following: talking animals, things with Julia Roberts, horror films (which I guess ties in with the whole Julia Roberts thing), and the eleventy millionth movie involving a dude being chased by the government because “he knows too much.”
With all these criteria you can probably guess that when I do go to the movies, it’s usually to see the latest release at the local independent theater and luckily, in Portland, these actually outweigh the sprawling, $10-a-Coke multiplexes. So last week, upon the desire for a simple night out and having caught the trailer online, I went and saw Small Town Murder Songs. An official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, at its best Small Town Murder Songs was everything I love in a movie. Quietly eerie and suspenseful, the film brought to mind the best qualities of a Coen brothers film and a Flannery O’Connor short story. Set in a small Ontario town still steeped in the ways of the Mennonites, Walter is a police chief with a violent past, attempting to manage his anger. When a young woman is found dead on the outskirts of town, Walter’s drive for redemption is tested and overall made for one of the more compelling, albeit brief, cinematic experiences I’ve had in a while. At its worst however, Small Town Murder Songs could be a bit too student film at times. I don’t think it delved deep enough into the characters and it was divided into sections by large, gratuitous biblical quotes emblazoned across the screen.
As it turns out, a large part of the film’s ultimate appeal for me was not the film itself, but its soundtrack. Accompanying and adding to many of the film’s most poignant scenes were the haunting stylings of Toronto based band, Bruce Peninsula. Eleven members strong, Bruce Peninsula seem to be the latest in a long tradition of “Canadianacana,” seamlessly fusing elements of American gospel, folk, indie and country. Led by the searing bluesy vocals of lead singer Neil Haverty, Bruce Peninsula are evocative and hard to pin down. One minute they are sparse roots rock, the next they are a choir like wall of sound making them a true standout amongst the progressive folk scene. Imagine: Tom Waits meets Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zero’s. As a relatively young band, their debut album A Mountain Is A Mouth was released in early 2009, I’m eager to share them and see what they come out with next. I’ve heard that their sophomore effort, Open Flames, is expected to drop in September. Until then, give a listen.