MIRACLE FORTRESS – Five Roses (Secret City)

Although not featured on the Canadian sampler which brought Besnard Lakes and Patrick Watson to my attention, Miracle Fortress are yet another Canadian band, hailing from Montreal. Their album kicks off with the short instrumental ‘Whirrs’ before ‘Have You Seen In Your Dreams’ and ‘Next Train’ show what the band can produce in the form of proper songs. That turns out to be lush Beach Boys influenced pop which owes much to Brian Wilson’s production techniques and glorious sonic vision. The vocal harmonies on ‘Maybe Lately’ even sounds like the Boys, and yet ‘Beach Baby’, which you expect to be a BB pastiche, is a song all of their own. ‘Hold Your Secrets To Your Heart’ is as achingly plaintive as you would expect, and ‘Little Trees’ is another luscious pop gem. ‘Poetaster’ increases the pace slightly, but as the band never seem likely to rock out we are treated to an upbeat ballad. The title track is another instrumental, this one a bit more experimental than ‘Whirrs’, but it leads into possibly the best track on here in ‘Blashpemy’. Although it starts out in a pretty straight-forward manner, it is the point at which the middle eight kicks in that raises this song above the others. Guitars chime and other odd instruments fade in and out to produce a really memorable track. ‘Fortune’ is a fuzz-guitar laden treat, and ‘This Thing About You’ rounds off the album with another pop gem. The real surprise comes at the end when you glance through the booklet accompanying the CD, and after admiring the lovely drawing of cats you discover that this whole album is the work of just one man – Graham Van Pelt. I must admit that I was stunned, as it sounds so much like a band that it is hard to believe that one person played everything, but to have written, performed, recorded and produced an album of this quality then the man must be trying to emulate his hero and be declared a genius. I think he is on the way to his aim.