Does Canada — nay, the world — need another alt-folk singer? If you use critical and populist measures like streaming charts and the Polaris Music Prize as barometers, it would appear that folky alt-rock’s appeal is on the wane. Yet, our percentage of folk singers per capita is surely one of the highest on Earth.
Have we heard it all before? Perhaps. Still, along comes a song like “Heart Attack” from a singer-songwriter like Graham Ereaux that makes my ears perk up and tune in. Performing as Devarrow, Ereaux’s harmonies, buttery soft and arrestingly beautiful, convey acute anxiety and subtle distress as he elucidates on millennial pressures and modern stress. “I don’t know what’s true / I don’t know how to do,” he pleads before admitting he’s experiencing a “Heart attack in the middle of the night / Even though my heart’s all right”.
That sense of anxiety and dread is so real, so immediate for anyone who’s made it through their twenties. I was immediately reminded of the panic attack I experienced on the first night I slept in the very first house I ever bought, the reality of a mortgage and the responsibility of being an adult slamming into my chest like a high-impact collision. Given the likelihood of a modern-day twentysomething being able to afford homeownership, my anxieties must seem like a dream more than a nightmare.
Whatever it is that fills Ereaux with lip-biting worry and heart-palpitating dread also swells “Heart Attack” into a pointed and poignant performance. Hearing Devarrow suggests that my initial question need reframing: it’s not about whether or not we need another folk singer; it’s a matter of Devarrow being the folk singer we all need right now.