Funeral Lakes embraces the storytelling traditions of folk and embedding their own twenty-first-century lived experience to make entertaining — and inspiring — art.
Protest music is not the exclusive domain of folk, although the two are inextricably linked. In many minds, the British and North American folk revival of the 60s was all about protest, political action, and a call for social change. With that in mind, it’s safe to say Toronto-via-Vancouver duo Funeral Lakes is firmly rooted in that same tradition, marking art that reflects their personal engagement to current social issues and is itself a form of activism and protest.
Proceeds from their self-titled full-length go towards funding the Pull Together campaign to stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline, but that’s not the only reason to recommend the album. Its eight songs — all informed by living in the midst of the climate crisis — are exquisitely rendered portraits of angst and fear over irreversible damage to the natural environment, a deep reverence for indigenous sovereignty, and intuitive musical instincts that redefine what “folk” sounds like in Canada in 2020. The punchy “Kingdom Fall” directly addresses the ramifications of colonialism (“Killing for a crown”) and the lingering injustices of government bureaucracy (“Shiny smile or a hand grenade / They’ve got means to an end”). The dreamy cascading wash of synths, strings, and Sam Mishos and Chris Hemer’s voices on opener “Anthropocene Dream” are counterbalanced by the poignancy and directness of the song’s two-line chorus: “It’s hard to believe / Oh oh it’s getting harder to breathe”.
Songs are charged with fiery imagery like skies filled with suffocating smoke and ash (“Forest Burns”, “Brilliant Fire”, and “Billions 2 Oblivion”) as if to further punctuate the direness and hopelessness intoned by naming their band and album Funeral Lakes. But the fires burning in Mishos and Hemer are indicative of a new generation of artists and musicians that are embracing folk’s oral storytelling traditions by singing of their own twenty-first-century lived experience and making art that entertains and inspires in equal measure.