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Toronto, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF | AFM

Toronto, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Americana Rock




"3 new Ontario songs you need to hear this week"

Ever since Mumford and Sons beamed their songs into the brain of every person on the planet, I've found banjo in indie-folk stuff to be a bit tired.

But Beams is really reclaiming it as their own here.

The banjo sounds genuinely sombre on this track, and that's not always the case for an instrument that's more commonly used for chicken pickin'. - CBC

"10 Best Songs of June 2015"

Toronto-based folk group Beams deliver a by-the-book — which, in this case, is to say excellent — cover of the 1985 Kate Bush classic "Running Up That Hill." Befitting their rootsier sensibilities, Beams trade the synths and sequencers for guitars and drum kits and other percussion, but it's otherwise a careful, loving, and high-fidelity rendition. - Chart Attack

"CD Review: Beams "Just Rivers""

Any folk-pop fans fearing a lack of fruitful ideas left to mine can take solace in the eccentric beauty of Toronto-based Beams' Just Rivers. The Canadian septet fronted by Anna Mérnieks offers such a dizzying array of bouncy arrangements that you'd be hard-pressed to classify it as folk in any strict sense, but it's a giddy, attention-worthy winner no matter what label you stamp on it.

As strange as it sounds, maybe imagine Broken Social Scene's Feist-fronted output with a crisply rustic overhaul in which the collective's sexily euphoric bombast is exchanged for whimsical Americana textures rounded out with mandolin, banjo, lap steel and musical saw. If that strikes you as 1) ridiculous and 2) improbably intriguing, rest assured 1) it's not and 2) it is. Need proof? If an unlikely BSS association seems grossly overarching, realize this is a band not only willing to tackle Portishead's trip classic "Glory Box," but also able to reinvent Beth Gibbons' seductively soulful pleas into a purely intoxicating creation with all the heart and artistry of the original while working on a disparate end of the pop spectrum.

Beams are every bit as tight-knit of a group as that aforementioned indie powerhouse. This is a band with roots deep in one another - Mérnieks' seasoned partner Mike Duffield plays the drums, while long-time friends Heather Mazhar (vocals), Craig Moffatt (bass), Dave Hamilton (mandolin), Keith Hamilton (musical saw), and Martin Crawford (lap steel) all fill crucial roles in Beams' refreshing sound - and the earned kinship comes through in the undeniable warmth of these songs.

Mérnieks' limber vocals are something to behold throughout Just Rivers. Her songwriting often snakes along with fairly ominous mystique ("too much fun in the sun / could kill someone / run little magpie, run, run, run / you got kissed by the lip of his gun" on "Too Much Fun"), but her airy performances (frequently in gorgeous, understated harmony with Mazhar) project an atmosphere that's akin to a hop and a skip through a phosphorescent Middle Earth (See: "Sun Wraps 'Round" with its oddly buoyant refrain "time wraps blankets around you and I / so we don't get hypothermia and die").

Of course, Mernieks' vocals merely account for one-seventh of the folksy magic dripping from Just Beams. It's impossible to overstate the allure Keith Hamilton brings to the proceedings while wielding his saw. There aren't many acts working the saw or its similar-sounding, hands-off counterpart, the theremin, into their tunes. That Beams make the eerie bleat of Hamilton's saw an instrumental component of their songs instantly differentiates Just Rivers' sound from just about everyone else operating under the seemingly all-inclusive umbrella of Americana. The mandolin and lap steel color the palette even more vividly and root the saw's wail in an accomplished, grounded sound and immediately validate its presence; the earthly pull provides necessary balance and keeps Beams from stumbling into the trap of kitsch. It's a fine feat that many other kitchen-sink-and-all bands either wouldn't attempt in the first place or know how to pull off properly, but Beams' comfortable knowledge of each other and their unique strengths pay off handsomely on record (and presumably even better live). Credit producer Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions) with the finely tuned ears for fashioning those strengths into arrangements this lushly layered and full of moxie.

It's reasonable to believe you may encounter an act or two in the months ahead that may allow you to conjure some brief glimmer of Just Rivers, but I promise you won't hear anything remotely like what Beams has crafted in whole with alluring hues on their debut. On the delirious, two-minute closer "End of the Bar," Mérnieks and Mazhar breathlessly chant "At the end of the bar at the end of the day everybody's talkin' about the cheap cocaine. See it go around and I pass again, it feels good when the night comes in" while the band chugs along in bouncing, workmanlike fashion. At the midpoint, Hamilton's saw takes center stage for a mesmerizing solo. Seconds later, Crawford vaults in with a juicy lick of lap steel accompaniment to circle back around for the final jaunt of enthusiastic harmony.

On paper, it's a mess that should make no worldly sense. In reality, it, like every other tune Beams power with verve on Just Rivers, is an unholy cocktail that goes down twenty times smoother than rationality should allow. Drink it down, savor the taste, and don't be surprised to find yourself bellying up to the bar to treat your closest friends on the next round. - No Depression

"NOW HEAR THIS: DeJ Loaf and Young Thug talk dirty; Veruca Salt break space-time PLUS: Toronto folk outfit Beams take on a Kate Bush classic."

Toronto-based folk group Beams deliver a by-the-book — which, in this case, is to say excellent — cover of the 1985 Kate Bush classic "Running Up That Hill." Befitting their rootsier sensibilities, Beams trade the synths and sequencers for guitars and drum kits and other percussion, but it's otherwise a careful, loving, and high-fidelity rendition. Perhaps its biggest accomplishment lies in the harmonies of the twin voices, which are dynamic and powerful as they locate harmonies with ease and familiarity. Kate Bush would be proud. - Chart Attack


[INDIE] Looking for something delightfully organic and unassuming? Beams, a seven-piece from Toronto, delivers the goods with their earthy blend of rootsy, alt-folk that’s cut with tinges of lo-fi indie pop. The outcome is simultaneously familiar and new, featuring dual fem vocalizing from Anna Mernieks and Heather Mazha set against a backwoods string-stew of banjos, lap steel, and mandolin with occasional flourishes of brash electric guitar. Following their well-received 2013 debut, Just Rivers, they’ve released a series of singles, including a spot-on cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” With nary a keyboard in sight, this is the perfect remedy for your digital blues. They’re at Mohawk Place on Wednesday, July 19, with the droning talents of locals Be Locust or Alone and Lalalangue. - The Public

"Beams "I Wanted to Tell Her" (video)"

Earlier this year, Toronto indie outfit Beams premiered the touching tune "I Wanted to Tell Her," and now the banjo-laden ode to the strength of familial love has been given the music video treatment.

The clip was directed by Christopher Mills, and it brings the song's story of an older sibling protecting a younger one from witnessing the pain of their troubled family to life with a unique perspective.

"The video built itself out of a collection of [Beams member] Anna Mernieks' stories, personal photographs and, of course, the arc and lyric of 'I Wanted to Tell Her,'" Mills explains. "I wanted the home to feel at first, from the dog's perspective, as though this story was being told to us with 'dog logic' — so we begin with the warm, and happy colours one might think a dog would see when arriving home."

He continues: "We explored themes of finding beauty within a chaotic situation, by cutting, pasting, and animating Anna's collection of elements with a rough, 'kid scissors' approach." The objective then became about marrying these floating pieces and components into a dramatic arc — which touches on chaos, loss, and finding beauty and inspiration in the darkness, with a way that swoops, and moves, and spins, time-lapses, and double exposes over itself, like momentary memories, laid on top of one another."

The intimate nature of the song and the visual inspirations left the band's Merniek a little hesitant at first, but she's since fully embraced the personal touches scattered throughout the clip.

"I felt shy about making a video for 'I Wanted to Tell Her,' worrying that it would turn out too literal or clichéd, but Chris's work is far from both of those things," she tells Exclaim! "He incorporated old photos and personal affects to create this nostalgic, chaotic dream world. He even managed to bring my childhood dog Troubadour back to life, and included an ode to our cat Badminton who died during the making of the video. It's a fitting environment for the song."

You can see that environment come to life on screen by watching the video for "I Wanted to Tell Her" below. Just scroll past Beams' upcoming live shows and hit play to check it out. - Exclaim!

"[Listen] Beams- The Gutters and the Glass"

LOVE this record. I just installed a new stereo in our living room and my daughter and I just spent about an hour flipping it over and over, totally hooked on it (I am fortunate enough to have the 7″ vinyl version). The easy-going folk vibe is counterbalanced by a delectable downbeat and some kick-ass rock guitar. - Ride the Tempo

"Beams - Just Rivers (Independent)"


The first thing you hear on Just Rivers, Toronto art-country band Beams’ debut album, is Anna Mernieks’s high voice, alone for a few bars. It’s a dramatic musical-theatre-style intro: slightly ominous, making you wait an extra beat before the band kicks in with lap steel, banjo, mandolin, et al. It leads into first single Be My Brother well, and sets the tone for an album that never repeats itself and is full of unexpected nods and surprise turns – bluegrassy one minute (okay, many minutes), nodding to 60s Britrock the next.
Mernieks is a sure guide throughout but holds back to let each instrument shine – like her banjo on Sun Wraps ’Round. Beams’ strength is their restraint, employing just enough singing saw, just enough plucking, just enough mystery in whimsical lyrics. They don’t hold back on harmonies, though, which truly shine on White Belly and Glory Box, making for the album’s most beautiful moments.
Top track: I’m Not Human - NOW Toronto


[FOLK] Toronto’s alt-folk circuit will never be the same now that Beams has arrived. Led by a pair of ladies in harmony, backed by mandolin, banjo, lap steel and (wait for it!) a singing saw, there’s more to the mix than your standard Americana twang. Expect Appalachian oddities melded with a sense of modern pop, spread through songs that are equal parts folk, country and bluegrass. Beams takes a progressive approach, which is sure to simultaneously attract a larger following while making purists fussy. Back with a new “double-A-sided” single, The Gutters and The Glass, the seven-piece plays Mohawk Place on Thursday with Pine Fever and the Observers. - The Public

"CMW 2013 Preview"

Yeah, there's a banjo, and yeah, you might hear a murder ballad or similar old-timey number during their set — but don't mistake Beams for some sort of grim revivalist roots band. This rambunctious crew is a party, funeral and wake all rolled up in one package. With their debut album on the way, this is a boxcar you want to climb on now. - Mechanical Soundforest

"Beams - Just Rivers"

Toronto has no shortage of large roots-based ensembles, but the seven-piece Beams is a welcome new entrant. The band is built round the songs and strong voice of Anna Mernieks, while members include The Diableros and Hamilton Trading Co. alumni. Lap steel, mandolin and saw help sharpen a sound that is well-constructed and never cluttered. Producer Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies) can take part credit for that. The most left-field track here is a convincing cover of Portishead classic "Glory Box", not conventional folk repertoire. Group originals equally impress, led by opening cut "Be My Brother". Solid Beams indeed. The band has a 10-city tour of Eastern Canada this month. - New Canadian Music


This new Toronto band has just issued this debut album, which I'd call new-school folk (a term I think I've just made up). It's old folk instruments mixed with bass/drums, and with indie words and attitude. Featuring singer Anna Mernieks distinctive, 60's folk-style vocals, it's an odd hybrid, moving back and forth, and taking surprising paths with almost every song. You certainly can't compare them to anyone easily, and they have some very particular elements which make them stand out.

Most of the vocals feature both Mernieks and second singer Heather Mazhar, either in harmony or unison, mixed up front with the result a higher, sweeter sound. Then you have mandolin, banjo and lap steel as dominate instruments on some tracks, while others get some nasty electric guitar. Again, old and new melding. It's largely cheery music, with happy bouncing banjo, but that's masking some sort of creepiness in the lyrics. Lead track Be My Brother is like some old English folk song, with the bass dancing around the mandolin, and then a lead saw break. Yes, I said saw.

This is a band with a full-time saw player (or singing saw, as it's credited). Keith Hamilton joins in all the time for solos, with that strange, ghostly sound. The saw gets quite a work-out on several numbers, sometimes taking the lead, other times becoming the top tone in the mix of guitar, double vocals, banjo, whatever else is going. The song How Wonderful gets a Western/Morricone feel because of the saw, only at double speed with chugging drums. Which poses the question, does a saw player refer to his instrument as his axe?

Beams is bringing Just Rivers out east right now, on Wednesday night (May 29) in Annapolis Royal, NS at the West Education Centre, Thursday at Plan B in Moncton, NB, friday in Yarmouth and Saturday in Halifax.

P.S. There's a couple of songs about drugs on here. I'm telling Mayor Ford. - Top 100 Canadian Blog

"High Lonesome Sound"

’ll bet you $20 that you’ve never heard a Portishead cover done in quite the way that Beams does it. The septuplet, led by Anna Mernieks, is a folksy band that takes a stab at “Glory Box” and gives it a slinky groove that allows the song to nestle quite comfortably with the rest of the group’s original material on their debut full-length album, Just Rivers. So, yeah, you probably haven’t heard “Glory Box” done as a folk ballad. It’s an audacious move to be sure, but you could expect no less from a record produced by the legendary Peter J. Moore, the dude behind the Cowboy Junkies most famous album, The Trinity Sessions, and a guy who has also worked with the (alas) much more obscure Upper Ottawa Valley band the Fireweed Company (née Fireweed) on their 1994 record Drinking Man, which is quietly regarded as a stone-cold classic rock album in areas to the northwest of Ottawa, Canada. But I digress.

Just Rivers is very much in a kitchen-sink folk-rock kind of vein, which makes it surprising to learn that this band is out of Toronto and not the East Coast of Canada – indeed, with its sweet female lead vocals and buoyant harmonies, a lot of this sounds like an edgier Rankin Family. Banjos are prominent along with the high lonesome sound of a Theremin-like saw providing a ghostly howl. And, effectively, Just Rivers is a toe-tapping, pleasing record, although one that has a wholly consistent sound to a point where a lot of the songs just blur into each other. Additionally, “End of the Bar” has a line in the chorus that mentions how everyone at a particular pub is talking about “cheap cocaine”, which sounds odd considering that Mernieks, with her elven voice, sounds way too innocent to be singing about drug usage. Still, there’s enough great material on the disc to warrant a purchase, especially for those who lament Sufjan Stevens’ recent excursions into more electronic territory. In short, Just Rivers is a pretty glorious start, even if it is one that will mainly have you rethinking just how Portishead should sound.

Rating:7/10 - Pop Matters

"Beams - Just Rivers Album Review"

What do you get when you take some hard plucking hillbilly banjo, gorgeous melodies, and a cold creepiness?  Well you get Just Rivers, the debut album from Toronto's Beams (out May 14th).

The lead single is "Be My Brother" is the template for the record.  It's a roots-based track with an eerie swirling atmosphere.  The results are as desolate, harsh, and lovely as a Canadian winter.

Following tracks like the lilting saw-bending "Sun Wraps 'Round" and the rollicking "What Would You Say" tone down the ethereal for a more down to earth sound.

The vocals (and songwriting) are provided by Anna Mernieks.  She's got a lovely voice, and one that conveys sweetness ("White Belly") to haunting ("Where Our Cabin Lies").

The most unexpected moment comes in the form of the cover of Portishead's "Glory Box".  It manages to maintain the feel of the original but adds an organic sound.

In one of the few flashes of joy, Beams have you almost immediately bopping your head to "End of the Bar", all the while singing rapturously about cheap cocaine.

It's a unique combination of sounds and atmospheres that Beams have pulled together for their debut.  You need to be in a certain mood to fully appreciate it, but when you are it's moving. - Snobs Music

"Review- “Just Rivers”- Beams"

Beams are in a very interesting place right now in terms of both their physical location and their sound. Toronto is a huge music scene, and it boasts a fair number of every type of act imaginable, from acoustic solo artists to electro-pop outfits to rappers. And it’s got its fair share of folk outfits as well. Beams, however, will manage to distinguish itself, if Just Rivers is any indication.
This septet has by nature a lot of manpower, and so it opens up a lot of possibilities for what the band can accomplish with its sound. The album starts with a folk-rock tune and ends on a very pronounced bluegrass note, with many varied stops in between.
One sound you’ll hear a hell of a lot of is the woozy sound of Keith Hamilton’s singing saw, an instrument that appears in nearly every (if not every) song. It’s a disorienting sound to hear and should keep listeners on their toes. You’ll also hear lots of banjo care of one of the band’s vocalists, Anna Mernieks, whose vocal presence is amplified with Heather Mazhar.
The first few tracks on the album do well to introduce the band. The extremely whimsical “Sun Wraps ‘Round” is a highlight of the album’s first half or so. From its nature-inspired lyrics to the light but effective percussion, it’s one that might stick in listeners’ heads. It’s also got perhaps the best phrase on the whole album “Time wraps blankets around you and I/So we don’t get hypothermia and die.”
There’s also some a nice nautical feel to “Let’s Not Keep It Open” in the chorus (which funnily enough suggests the exact opposite of what the title suggests), and an east-coast shoutout in “Picture This.”
At the beginning of the second half of the album, Beams becomes inexplicably more daring, and the songs become even better because of it. “I’m Not Human” starts off beautifully with its mingling of banjo and guitars, later taking on an unexpectedly heavy turn at around the three-minute mark. “Glory Box” starts like a ballad but morphs into something much more energetic, and “What Would You Say” features a fantastic build.
After this amazing set of three songs, the songs become a little more straightforward but no less energetic, ending on the aforementioned bluegrass note. The final song “End of the Bar” also manages to be pretty blatant with its hook “At the end of the bar, at the end of the day, everybody’s talkin’ ’bout the cheap cocaine.”
Whatever it is Beams are doing, they’re doing it well. If they want to be all weird and experimental on their next album, that would be just as cool as if they decided to be a bit more straightforward folk. But this middle ground, straddling the line between both worlds, seems to be serving the band best.
Top Tracks: “Sun Wraps ‘Round”; “I’m Not Human”; “What Would You Say”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) - Grayowl Point

"Beams - Just Rivers (Independently released CD, Pop)"

The debut full-length release from Toronto, Canada's Beams. This is a rather large band comprised of seven members: Anna Mernieks, Keith Hamilton, Martin Crawford, Heather Mazhar, Dave Hamilton, Craig Moffatt, and Mike Duffield. The songs on Just Rivers have a nice organic sound and feel...and they're purely driven by smart lyrics and heartfelt vocals. Mernieks is the chief songwriter in the band...and she has an impressive ability to come up with cool flowing melodies and words that seem to come from a genuinely personal place. We particularly like the overall sound of these recordings (courtesy of producer Peter J. Moore)...these tracks have a sound that harkens back to the 1970s and 1980s...before everyone started making recordings that sound way too trebly. The folks in this band are playing a style of music that is somewhat reminiscent of lots of other bands and yet...there's something undeniably different about their music. It could be the inherent sincerity and direct delivery. Twelve well-crafted cuts here including "Be My Brother," "Let's Not Keep It Open," "I'm Not Human," and "End of the Bar." - Baby Sue

"Introducing Beams"

Toronto-based indie folk septuplet Beams has released Be My Brother, the debut single from their upcoming full-length album, Just Rivers. The lush instrumentation and lovely vocal harmonies hide the fact that lyrically something altogether more discomforting and baleful lies beneath the surface. It gives the band an edge that many of their contemporaries in this field either lack, or are unwilling to find.
The digital single also includes a rather unusual, but compelling cover ofPortishead’s Glory Box. - Mad Mackerel

"More Music From the Inbox"

The clean sound coming out of those amps, with terrific, sunny (but with a bit of shade, no doubt) vocal harmonies coming from Anna Mérnieks and Heather Mazhar add an exclamation point to the nice retro touches splashed on in every corner of the room by their bandmates. This unique brand of country-rock and folk music was meant to be listened to while walkin’.
Sounds like: Blue Rodeo and the Cowboy Junkies along a lonely pathway towards brighter pastures. - Alan Cross

"CMW Preview: Beams"

Toronto-based Beams is a band that is probably not on your radar… yet. This folk septuplet is set to release Just Rivers, which was produced by Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies), on April 2nd. I’ve been hooked on this band since I first heard them and there’s this ease in their sound that really reflects how comfortable each of the band members are with each other.
The band is fronted by Anna Mérnieks on banjo. Her songwriting prowess shapes the songs, but the 6 other band members really help her bring the songs to life. Mérnieks is joined by her friends, Heather Mazhar (vocals), Keith Hamilton (musical saw), Dave Hamilton (mandolin), Craig Moffatt (bass), Martin Crawford (lap steel) and Mike Duffield (drums).
The band has also included an almost haunting cover of Portishead’s “Glory Box” to complete the digital single. - Buying Shots for Bands

"An Incredibly Selective Guide to Canadian Musicfest 2013"

Beams are a shiny-new, Toronto-based outfit who are still so green, they’ve but a couple of songs by which to judge them but considering their multi-part harmonies and country-rock instrumentation are as potent on their original compositions as on a Portishead cover, there’s no reason to not believe they’ve got plenty more goodness up their sleeves. - Chromewaves

"All In a Family"

The trend for three, maybe for band members max these days seems to be a reflection (or perhaps reflects) the compactness of our families.  It’s rare that you find a family of six, seven, or eight anymore, just as the penchant for massive musical collectives have gone by the wayside.
So it feels like a bit of an 00's throwback to find a new band with seven members.  That they’re also based out of Toronto and play indie folk might conjure up images of collectives gone by,but that’s only if you think of Beams as a band.  For all intents and purposes, they’re really a family; lead singer Anna Mémieks is joined by her long-time partner Mike Duffield on drums, her long-time friends Heather Mazhar on vocals, Keith Hamilton on musical saw (yes, really), Dave Hamilton on mandolin (think they’re related?), Craig Moffat on bass, and Martin Crawford on lap steel.
Together with iconic producer Peter Moore (Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions)  they’ve let their youthfulness and joie de vivre loose on Just Rivers, their long player debut, scheduled for release in May.  “Be My Brother”, the album’s first single, is available now, alongside their cover of Portishead’s “Glory Box”, which gets a new lease on life as a spooky backwoods hymn (after being co-opted for that commercial where the woman tries to paddle board and falls off–what’s the ad for anyway?  Every time I see it I just keep thinking about how inappropriate the song sounds in that context).
- Quick Before it Melts

"Band of the Month: Beams"

Welcome to the new, biweekly addition to Things Are Good!
Band of the Month will be recurring every other Friday as a way to kick start the weekend with good news and good music!

Today’s Band of the Month is Beams; A seven piece Toronto band with a hearty, bluegrassy-folk sound. Beams are today’s Band of the Month because their smile inducing on-stage rapport is not only obvious, but infectious to everyone in the room. Partner that with charming vocal harmonies and instruments like mandolin and saw (that’s right, saw), and you’ll be grinning all weekend. - Things are Good

"Band of the Week: Beams"

The beauty of certain bands stems from their ability to eschew what many would consider to be the trappings of their chosen genre (insofar as a band like Beams actually chooses a genre). Sure, Beams have banjos, acoustic guitars and mandolins, but the addition of the musical saw and lap steel — coupled with lead vocalist, banjo player and principal songwriter Anna Mérnieks’ often playful delivery — will cause you to throw away any notion you had of calling them a “folk” band.

Beams shares many of its members with the Hamilton Trading Co. (who we profiled a few weeks back), which is likely the reason this relatively new band looks so comfortable on stage as they take jaunty, banjo-led rhythms and underlay them with the haunting melodies provided by the saw; it makes for quite a unique experience. -, Ty Trumbull


"Be My Brother" - single - Feb 26, 2013
"Just Rivers" - full-length debut - May 14, 2013
"The Gutters and the Glass" - 7" single -Jan 27, 2015
"Running up That Hill (Kate Bush)- June 23, 2015



“The lyrics are sad but the music is sweet,” sings Anna Mernieks on the final track of the new Beams album before co-front woman Heather Mazhar comes in for the chorus, their voices combining to strike exactly the bittersweet balance the lyrics describe. It’s a fitting line given that Beams is a band that’s embraced contrasts from the start—even their name has opposing connotations, calling up images of something both solid and permeable, light and dark. With Teach Me To Love, their second full-length album and follow-up to 2015 John McEntire (Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, Broken Social Scene) recorded 7”, The Gutters and the Glass, the band is in full command of their contradictions. Recorded at Toronto’s Union Sound Co by Ian Gomes (Hooded Fang, Odonis Odonis) Teach Me To Love’s ten songs are subtle and spacious in their arrangements, while at the same time Beams’ seven members bring a propulsive energy to everything they play. The results are catchy as hell and full of, not nostalgia, but a longing for something you know you can never have, like always wanting to be in the country when you’re in the city, and the other way around.

Toronto-based Beams have been winning overcrowds across North America with their hard to classify sound for the last five years. Led by Mernieks and her banjo, the band is usually called some variation of country or bluegrass, (a natural conclusion to come to, considering there could be a mandolin, lap steel, singing saw and several band members wearing plaid on stage at any given time during a Beams set), but they have a certain Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom-like otherworldliness that’s made them impossible to fit neatly in one category.

Teach Me To Love finds Beams much more at home in the realm of psych folk, a genre whose dual nature manages to encompass the sprawling beauty of these new songs. Mining her experiences and her imagination in equal measure, Merniek’s lyrics turn the everyday into the unbelievable, blurring reality, but only at its edges. “My Second Time At The Mountains” wonders if you can ever experience a “first” again, whether it’s the awe of seeing mountains for the first time, or the way you loved someone in the beginning. “Apartment In My Head” is a spiralling, sinister tune propelled by Merniek’s banjo, which plucks prettily as ever but brings with it a sense of deep foreboding, calling to mind acts like fellow Torontonians Timber Timbre, who evoke a similar sonic atmosphere.

“Beams’ strength is their restraint, employing just enough singing saw, just enough plucking, just enough mystery in whimsical lyrics,” Julia LeConte wrote in her four-star review of their 2013 debut album Just Rivers. The arrangements on Teach Me To Love are truly accomplished, a testament to the musicianship of each band member, who are practiced at leaving elbow room for each other in the music, if not in the band van. Brothers Dave and Keith Hamilton on mandolin and singing saw/vibraphone respectively, bring texture and personality, Mike Duffield’s relentlessly excellent drumming, alongside Craig Moffatt on bass, acts as both backbone and pulse, supporting everything while driving it forward, and Martin Crawford’s guitars lift the songs just as high as Mernieks’ and Mazhar’s weightless harmonies.

This latest offering is a versatile, ambitious album that sounds right anywhere, whether it’s first thing in the morning on your subway ride to work, on a late night long distance drive, or live,in a bar, on the dance floor. Because, for all their subtleties and complexities, Beams is also a band that will make you want to dance.

Band Members