For their latest album, No Ghost, the Ottawa-based band the Acorn isolated themselves in a cottage in remote northern Quebec to work on their music.
A story reminiscent of Bon Iver's self-enforced seclusion in a log cabin, their music also presents other similarities, with themes of nature running through lush, melodic folk-rock. In fact, Bon Iver, as well as artists such as Fleet Foxes and Elbow, are all fans of the band's work, which has led to some sizeable support slots for our Canadian quintet.
So the question remains: why do the Acorn have such a low profile? They write well-arranged melodies, incorporate some interesting textured sounds and sing of the usual preoccupations of folk: love, loneliness and landscapes. They have even had a critically acclaimed debut: 2007's Glory Hope Mountain, an ambitious concept album about the life and journey of singer Rolf Klausener's mother.
Live, they are very, well... pleasant. They are obviously talented musicians; their textured tunes, mainly comprising guitars and double drums, the odd ukulele and vocal harmony, suit live performances, if for nothing else than to show how tight they are. Their first song, "Slippery When Wet" (which begins with the very un-Bon Jovi-sounding "Panda, panda, climb your tree/ There's a life you live in spite of me"), is nice enough, if unremarkable.
And so they continue with a mix of new songs and old. Numbers such as "I Made the Law" and "Bobcat Goldwraith" are well executed but just sort of blend into each other, as the songs go on becoming fairly indistinguishable, despite Klausener's pleasing vocals and some nice flourishes. They're at their finest with the sparse, beautiful moments provided on tracks such as the delicate "Misplaced" and "On the Line".
What really makes the evening entertaining is Klausener's in-between track banter. He's very amicable and larks about, responding to suggestive audience members with witty one-liners.
They are certainly a fine act and there is a sincerity to their music that makes you want to root for them. They just don't make you want to go running off to buy their albums or rush to tell your friends about them, thereby perhaps explaining the lingering low profile.