Whilst probably not recommended for everyone, post break-up music never did Fleetwood Mac any harm. Following in their footsteps are Toronto-based group Decoration Day. The six-piece band are led by former couple Justin Orok and Tiffany Wu, who formed the band when they were together and continued it after their break-up an experience they describe as, “a sort of cathartic grieving“. The band’s debut EP, Blind Contour, reflects that relationship ending, as they put it, “every song on the EP is a snapshot of a moment in time from our relationship or shortly after”. Blind Contour is out this Friday, and ahead of its release you can stream the record in its entirety below.
The album is obviously heavy in romantic angst, but for all the lyrical gems, it’s the music that truly shines. Citing influences from Nick Drake to Daniel Rossen, Decoration Day’s music is complex and anything but predictable. The six members bring bass clarinet, vibraphone and harmonium to proceedings, alongside the omnipresent acoustic guitar. The resultant sound is a sort of minimalist orchestral-pop, all held together by Mara Nesrallah’s crystalline, soprano-like vocal. Their music brings to mind the likes of Stephanie Dosen or Bowerbirds, in its delicate modern take on more traditional folk origins.
The record was written in an intriguing fashion, a process Justin describes as, “freedom in limitations”. The musical score was presented to the musicians, but often giving them more than one option to choose from, allowing them the freedom to create within the limitations of the music as it was intended. Perhaps this results in the gently woozy quality to the music; the way the woodwind and strings seem to gently drift throughout the music, without ever standing entirely on the vocal melodies toes.
The EP seems to almost trace the story-arc of the pair’s relationship; opening salvo Underwater is described as, “an anthem about first love and trust”, while Trouble Leaving is about that very feeling, that inevitable moment when you question, “and if you leave, will I still be whole?”. It’s only by the penultimate track, Until, where the fluttering Grizzly Bear-like acoustic comes to the fore, that there seems to be acceptance of the changing nature of their relationship.
The title of the EP is lifted from a game the pair played from their first date until their last days together. It involved drawing the other person without looking at the page, as Justin explains, “afterwards we came to view it as sort of symbolic of our whole relationship, because the results were always messy and not as intended, but also not without their own charm”. The resulting EP might not be anything like as messy, but charming it undeniably is. It might have taken a lot of painful self-exploration to get here, but their relationship ending might just be the making of Decoration Day, and for the rest of us that’s very good news indeed.