Ptarmigan’s debut album blends traditional folk melodies, progressive production and an experimental flair.
It’s hard to decide what is the best part of the album Cocoon by Toronto band Ptarmigan: the beautifully visual lyrics, soft and melancholic sounds, or the lush, peacefulness of their album’s cover art. Released on the 19th of November, the nine songs on this album are the perfect soundtrack for a calm, haunting wintertime.
Produced by the band’s Sam Gleason, the songs each blend traditional folk melodies, progressive production and an experimental flair. Speaking of home, loss, family hardships and more, each song makes the listener feel a sense of longing and nostalgia — something most present in the song “Rounder,” the lyrics of which seem to talk about the confusion of a lost love and the emotions that come with wandering from place to place, never feeling like you truly belong.
Ptarmigan also adds layers of vocal harmonies to certain songs, helping to embellish even the simple sentiment of feeling hungry — which, to be fair, is probably a metaphor for something deeper than lunch: “Didn’t last till lunchtime then we wasted away / Stomachs younger than minds, ideas older than age” (“Cocoon”). A couple of other favourite lyrics, filled with imagery, include “With wrapped around my finger, all my memories like trinkets / And I’m screaming in a canyon a farewell to my companions” from the song “Once I Knew” and “Woke in the morning to the devil’s eyes / You were dancing with a phantom on a different skyline” from “Phantom.”
Peter McMurtry’s silvery and quiet voice is accompanied by the sounds of banjo, guitar, mandolin and a wonderful fusion of different instruments and vocal harmonies by Aaron Hoffman. These sounds evoke lots of emotions that help make this album perfect for the winter season: some songs (like “Two Handles,” “Portrait,” and “Far From Home”) feel like the cool, crisp December breeze, while others (such as “Rounder,” “Markinch,” and “The Mason”) suggest the feeling of being safe, warm and cozied up indoors and looking out at the snowy wilderness.