Canada's Casper Skulls has always felt like a band being pulled in multiple directions at once. Their first EP 2016's Lips & Skull broadcasted the Toronto-via-Sudbury quartet's disparate impulses over five songs, frantically alternating between from pummeling post-punk ("Devotion" and "Caught On A Wire") and frenetic alt-rockers ("Lips & Skull" and "Errands"). It was a compelling and sometimes jarring tour of the last three decades of indie rock, shepherded by the distinct voices of the band's dual lead songwriters Neil Bednis and Melanie St. Pierre.
That's not the case on Casper Skulls' clear-eyed debut full-length Mercy Works, which is out November 3 via Buzz Records. It's a quieter effort that manages to stay cohesive while highlighting the band's restlessness. "Our EP was a whole bunch of different ideas that we had. Now we're more focused and this record is the sound that we want to convey: more melodic and sentimental," St. Pierre explains over the phone while on her break at her Toronto day job. Compared to the often ear-splitting nature of their earlier material, the songs on Mercy Works lower the volume but increase the memorable hooks like the Paul Simon-referencing lead single "You Can Call Me Allocator," which feels a little like Arcade Fire trying to write a Protomartyr single. However, nothing in the young band's catalog so far feels more inviting and dynamic than their latest preview of the new album, "Lingua Franca."
One of St. Pierre's five songs on the album (she takes turns with Bednis on vocal duties throughout), "Lingua Franca" is a woozy look how people navigate relationships. Its title is loosely defined as "the common language speakers whose native tongues are different adopt to communicate with each other" and as St. Pierre explains, "The song is basically about communication and the way that can hold up or break down a romance or a friendship." Over atmospheric guitars and lilting strings, she sings of a "love that's drunk, that's half-lit/An insult worse than scars." While it's ambiguous, the track is unquestionably moving. "There are questions everyone asks while in a relationship about whether or not it's something worth pursuing and fixing or if it's something that's run its course and it's time to move on," says St. Pierre of her headspace while writing the song.
St. Pierre laughs over the phone and explains that their dynamic in the band is a lot different than the one hinted at in the song. "We're talking about communication in the song, but in real life our band has so much of it," she says. "Sometimes it's all honesty and we'll have these times where we'll all just sit down on the floor and just like cry together after being on the road for so long."
Listen to "Lingua Franca" below and preorder Mercy Works here.
Casper Skulls tour dates:
October 15 - Washington, DC @ DC9 +
October 17 - Ottawa, ON @ Dominion
October 20 - Halifax, NS @ Halifax POP @ Seahorse Tavern
October 21 - Fredericton, NB @ Capital
November 02 - St. Catherine's, ON @ Warehouse
November 10 - Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR
November 11 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean >#br### November 12 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Spirit
November 13 - Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong
November 14 - Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
November 16 - Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville ~
November 23 - Montreal, QC @ Phi Center ^
November 24 - Ottawa, ON @ Bronson Theater ^
November 25 - Toronto, ON @ Great Hall ^
+ w/ Weaves
^ w/ Land of Talk
% w/ And The Kids
~ w/ Baked, Bueno