It's a rare album that saves the best for the last two minutes. Maybe that makes for a somewhat flawed album as well, but I'll take the two-minute closing track to the Early Day Miners' The Treatment - "Silver Oath" - in whatever way it's packaged. It's consistent with the sound of the record, which evokes the ringing clarity and cleanness of Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse, with hints of the repetition, slowness and empty-plain echoes of Low and Cowboy Junkies. But "Silver Oath" adds an Appalachian spookiness to the mix, with Daun Fields's forlorn guest vocals pushing the song - and the record - into more resonant, uncanny territory, and suggesting a place to go for the follow-up.
Not that the rest of the album isn't worth the listen, but it never crosses over into another world, never inspires a shiver, perhaps because it has such a clean poppy sound, and perhaps because its repetitive structure lends itself more towards mood music than anything that demands attention. Lyrics are unmemorable, choruses are absent or effaced, but the sound of the album is cool and pleasant, sounding about as much like, say, a Sting record (owing to soft synths and sweet vocals), as anything on Secretly Canadian possibly could.
So it's about the groove for a record that wouldn't properly be called groove-based, a term more reserved for jam music and jazz. Bass and drums hold down the fort with unvarying beats, leaving the floor for guitar and synth to snake about, feedback here, an almost-too-beefy guitar solo here. The band does sound remarkably like early Modest Mouse at times, but without the manipulative emotional highs or lows; songs gradually build, but never climax, keeping things at an even keel throughout. When the band does step out of this mid-tempo, clean as a whistle, post-rock template on "Becloud" - which opens with a dirty, almost industrial drumbeat like Pink Floyd's "Money" and which is darker and more distorted - the serene mood is broken, and we come into the light of day.