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Album Review: Saskatchewan – Occasion

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N*Sync. Backstreet Boys. O-Town. Orlando’s best-known musical exports the past two decades have had the home of Disney World and the NBA’s worst collectively blushing. Fortunately, a band named Saskatchewan emerged from that central Florida city to cleanse our palates of Lou Perlman and all he begat. The group is well aware of their place of origin, having embraced it on their website with the sentence: “Just another boy band from Orlando.” Of course they’re anything but that. “Dream pop” is one way to describe them, but there aren’t enough moments of gazing downward on their new album, Occasion, to simply lump them into a subgenre associated with less distinct bands.

Occasion owes its existence to a wayback machine that Saskatchewan apparently discovered, which they used to transport them back to the early ‘80s for maximum influence. You’ll discover Avalon‘s laid-back beats punctuating the floating rhythms in “Possession”. In the next room, the ghost of a Peter Hook bassline drives “Destroy” to its conclusion. There’s even space for a hit 1982 single in the form of “Youth Ministry”, a track that marries jangling guitar and some keyboard effects with ease. It’s not dream-pop. There’s room to drift, but never in slow-motion.

While Occasion’s tracks don’t match the heights of a Bryan Ferry melody or a New Order single, Saskatchewan shoot for the same wheelhouse, and sometimes find themselves close. Listen to the title track, which also acts as the album’s finale. The band manages to deliver a big chorus without getting loud, two actions that are normally hard to pool together. While the song’s vocals in the choruses aren’t any louder than the verses, lead singer Chandler Strang’s control and range takes the song somewhere else during these intervals. A fitting end to an album that hopefully signifies a bigger future for Saskatchewan. Natives of Orlando should have their fingers crossed.

Essential Tracks: “Possession”, “Youth Ministry”, and “Occasion”.

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