From the moment “Trouble” begins — with the gentle crescendo of ominous echo, like a foghorn or a siren — a distinctive mood is set. Maybe it’s Riun Garner’s roots in Vancouver, the bonafide capital of Canadian indie rock, or maybe it’s something else altogether. But accompanied only by the doleful echo and an acoustic guitar, it seems as if you’re seated right next to him, at a campfire or on the floor of someone’s dimly lit city apartment, sharing in his heartbreak.
Saying that the production is minimal is an understatement. According to a press release, “Trouble” was conceived as a voice memo recording, where it remained collecting digital dust in virtual oblivion until its resurrection, in a fashion almost cloying in its singer-songwriter past-worship — on an abandoned analog reel to reel tape machine found in an empty apartment hallway. Perhaps the feeling throughout of emptiness, accentuated by the echo and the repetition of simple, despondent lyrics, is a product of circumstance.
“Trouble,” and the personal reinvention that accompanies it for Garner, is worlds away from his past, as the frontman for head-banging garage-alt group Snowbeast.
On my first listen, I thought I heard the influence of Elliott Smith; it was unmistakable in the low drawling verses, the sickly sweet falsetto chorus, and the stripped-down instrumentals. A visit to Garner’s website confirmed that Smith is an inspiration to Garner, along with Nick Drake, Bon Iver, and a selection of other artists who make up an alternative singer-songwriter who’s who.
Like them, Garner hopes to carve out a path that defies the conventions of the genre. “I don’t want to be just another sad folk singer-songwriter with a cabin in the woods. I hope to break the cliche of what an indie folk singer-songwriter can be,” he said in a press release.
Check out “Trouble,” the bellwether of an album that promises a cohesive theme of smooth and sultry modern folk, right here: