Curse in the Woods
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Curse in the Woods

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF
Band Pop Cabaret

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Curse in the Woods is a dark cabaret act. More than simply a musical group, they draw influence for their performances from seedy cabarets, Tom Waits, David Lynch and all things spooky and spellbinding. This multi-disciplinary Montreal collective is made up of members whose past work includes stints with the Montreal University Orchestra, burlesque appearances, a street circus, gypsy jazz bands and improv groups. All of which to say, experiencing Curse In The Woods live is multidimensional. Taking both the visual and musical into consideration, this group is turning their passion for the theatrical and devilish split personalities into a truly unforgettable live experience.

Beyond their performative interests, at the back of their murky closet there lays a deep fascination with the blues, which gives the group its narrative focus. Each song, each performance, each movement of the band's members is weaved into a story that began long before this group's inception. - Halifax Jazz Festival


Described as “cabaret/dark cabaret”, The Deals They Made is the first full length album by Montreal’s Curse in the Woods. The album is rich in imagery and descriptive lyrics, interlaced with a symphony’s worth of instruments. The music might not be the type that you would hear regularly played on the radio, but honestly a lack of play on popular radio stations would preserve the ingenuity found within these songs.
Upon first hearing the album the listener is thrown into a world filled with burlesque dancers, carnival acts and imagery reminiscent of a Baz Lurhmann film. You could almost picture yourself walking through the streets of Montemarte, Paris, at dusk when all of the night owls come out to play.
Vocalist Jeannie Taylor has a quality of sound that I can’t help but describe as a Zooey Deschanel/Amy Winehouse/Tori Amos/Norah Jones mash-up. It’s melancholic and smooth with a hint of jazz. Her voice acts as the perfect topper to the incredible sounds created by Sam Harvey, François Girouard, Guillaume Garant-Rousseau and François Landry with their multitude of instruments (I particularly like the use of piano and brass throughout the album).
Some of the songs contain lyrics that are so descriptive that you can imagine a literal translation of the lines into dramatic scenes: Perfect Lawns could be used to set a burlesque show; with its Spanish tango overtone, Rain Is On Its Way makes me feel like I’m stuck in scene from a Hemingway novel set during his Pamplona days; Chevrons can be turned into a silent film with the song acting as the perfect backing soundtrack. Not only does the album confirm the band’s ability as musicians, but it also shows their skills as storytellers.
For those who thought cabaret was dead, this band can help revive the genre. Call me bold, but I could definitely see Curse in the Woods being called the Arcade Fire of modern cabaret. It might not appeal to everyone as it’s not typical of the music most often heard amongst today’s genres, but that could create a fan base of people who truly appreciate the musicianship, creativity and broad scope of talent found within this band.
- The Scene Magazine


Reading that Montreal based septet, Curse In The Woods formed when accordionist Sam Harvey connected with burlesque artist Jeannie Taylor in a metro station, my curiosity piqued. Living in New York for 23 years, I encountered some of the most fascinating performers in underground subway stations so The Deals They Made in my mind had great promise from the gate. Watching the EPK video, Taylor perfectly describes their music as "if Nina Simone and Beck had a child and they sent it to grow up in a haunted house... it would grow up, perhaps to be a fan of Curse In The Woods". With a description like that, I suspected these folk/jazz/blues/gypsy musicians as well as visual artists, would conjure up vividly bold images in their lyrics and had to press "Play" ASAP.
Assortedly flavored, theatrically "Moulin Rouge"-esque (I made this word up) especially on "Carnival", Jeannie's voice blends Ella Fitzgerald, Feist, Sade and Kimbra while seductively purring through NOLA/Parisian jazz/blues influenced opening track, "Perfect Lawns". Venturing into tango territory on "Rain Is On Its Way", these songs are screaming (like Janet Leigh in "Psycho") to be on TV or in movies and they would complement the screen superbly. Master orchestral musicians support Jeannie, making the album sound like a Broadway (which I love being a former theatre kid) musical soundtrack.
Weaving in and out of dreary and melancholy without being depressing (yes, it's possible), and with Halloween being a few short weeks away, ghosts and goblins emerge with sound effects like chains and walking footsteps added on "Walking In The City", "Widow" and "Curse In The Woods". Building suspense during opportune moments during the songs, you might start to develop a story (ok, maybe just me) about a Red Riding Hood heroine who you hope escapes the wolf, zombie, "The Beast" or the ax or machete-wielding character potentially chasing her through the forest. Delightfully ghoulish, this group is def on "The Verge" so "Wise Up" and cop this album immediately. End scene.
User rating: 9/10 - Music Emissions


Reading that Montreal based septet, Curse In The Woods formed when accordionist Sam Harvey connected with burlesque artist Jeannie Taylor in a metro station, my curiosity piqued. Living in New York for 23 years, I encountered some of the most fascinating performers in underground subway stations so The Deals They Made in my mind had great promise from the gate. Watching the EPK video, Taylor perfectly describes their music as "if Nina Simone and Beck had a child and they sent it to grow up in a haunted house... it would grow up, perhaps to be a fan of Curse In The Woods". With a description like that, I suspected these folk/jazz/blues/gypsy musicians as well as visual artists, would conjure up vividly bold images in their lyrics and had to press "Play" ASAP.
Assortedly flavored, theatrically "Moulin Rouge"-esque (I made this word up) especially on "Carnival", Jeannie's voice blends Ella Fitzgerald, Feist, Sade and Kimbra while seductively purring through NOLA/Parisian jazz/blues influenced opening track, "Perfect Lawns". Venturing into tango territory on "Rain Is On Its Way", these songs are screaming (like Janet Leigh in "Psycho") to be on TV or in movies and they would complement the screen superbly. Master orchestral musicians support Jeannie, making the album sound like a Broadway (which I love being a former theatre kid) musical soundtrack.
Weaving in and out of dreary and melancholy without being depressing (yes, it's possible), and with Halloween being a few short weeks away, ghosts and goblins emerge with sound effects like chains and walking footsteps added on "Walking In The City", "Widow" and "Curse In The Woods". Building suspense during opportune moments during the songs, you might start to develop a story (ok, maybe just me) about a Red Riding Hood heroine who you hope escapes the wolf, zombie, "The Beast" or the ax or machete-wielding character potentially chasing her through the forest. Delightfully ghoulish, this group is def on "The Verge" so "Wise Up" and cop this album immediately. End scene.
User rating: 9/10 - Music Emissions


I still remember the first time I listened to Kate Bush. I was a bit of a late-bloomer to be indoctrinated into the beautiful, yet haunting aura of her songs. I also remember the first time I listened to Tom Waits. Again, I was late to be exposed to the ways of his unconventional, not really folk, not really rock – but instead… well, I’m still at a loss of words to adequately describe his musical offerings.

In a way, I’ve relived a combination of those experiences at the same time with my recent exposure to Curse in the Woods. Their bio acknowledges the Waits influence which is certainly evident, but there is also that beautiful, yet almost frightening Bush-like feel to their songs. One noted difference would be that Jeanie Taylor’s vocal presentation is more of a lower-register “Kate” – kind of a “relaxed Kate” with a touch of Feist. However one might describe it, know that it works, and where at times Bush’s theatrical vocals can almost wear out the listener – Taylor, along with her accompanying troubadours, instead sort of subtly creeps up on a person in a whimsical, yet eerie, manner.

The band (Group? Clan? – yes, they’re that difficult to pigeonhole) evidently came into existence when Taylor, a seasoned theatrical vocalist had a chance encounter with an accomplished accordion player (Sam Harvey) in a Montreal metro station. From that core the seed of a vision sprouted resulting in the addition of not some, but seven additional members to their line-up who have quite an impressive pedigree of formal training in the musical arts. Their instrumental background includes being versed in everything from piano, accordion, upright bass, guitar, violin, percussion, trombone, tuba … (I could go on) … and one of them is even dedicated purely to “video creation and projections.” This makes sense when experiencing the “projections” in one’s mind while listening to their songs from their first full length album – 2012’s “The Deals They Made.”

The opening song “Perfect Lawns” gives the sensation of being introduced to a group of travelling gypsies who are sort of playfully taunting the listener. Musically, it’s “Feist-ish” in some ways with a tuba bringing up the bottom end, while lyrically the song has a biting ironic flavor about a culture of gated communities with “so much to lose.” The album quickly moves from feeling whimsical to a tad demented during the second track entitled “Echoes” – as Taylor’s voice accompanied by piano/organ starts sounding more spacey. The song is quite ethereal and builds to expose the experimental playfulness of the band. “Rain is On Its Way” introduces the listener to a kind of up-tempo, storytelling, almost vaudeville-esque vibe. I want to note that the songwriting throughout the album is chock-full of interesting, and unpredictable shifts. On a number of occasions this reviewer was reminded a little of Elvis Costello with the unsuspecting chord progressions and melody twists. “Chevrons” and “Walking in the City” are two songs in particular which harken me back to what I like about many of EC’s curveball-to-the-head song journeys. It’s actually very wonderful so long as, in this case, you’re not starting to get too spooked. I wouldn’t recommend listening to this album alone in a dark room at night (and I’m only about half-kidding). Still, in the midst of darkness there remain elements of “light” and continued accessibility. In this way, the album sort of toys with the listener, because just when you think you’re going to plunge into the point of no return, the song will lighten up and become almost jovial. Also, the production of Taylor’s voice doubled over itself is just plain fabulous. Based on this, the song’s unpredictability, its arrangement, and its atmospheric effects – “Walking” might be my personal favorite cut on the album. The song “Widow” exposes some excellent musicianship with the time signature and rhythm going a little jazz-ish on you, then almost classical – while through all this maintaining that certain nightmarish quality. It’s quite amazing, really. Lyrically the song introduces the theme of the album title. After a brief, acoustic instrumental breather number (“Pas La” featuring distant chirps and crowing), the listener plunges head-first into three songs (“The Beast,” “Carnival,” and “Curse in the Woods”) and gets taken progressively deeper and deeper into creeps-ville. In fact, you might sense that “something hovers” – and – “you can’t smell it, but you can tell that it’s there.” This “Beast” is accompanied by very prolific violin virtuosity. Not only that, you enter a “Carnival” that exposes you to “organs grinding into the night” while the song itself drops in and out of minor chords, with a stereo-bouncing lead vocal, a circus piano, and a frightening lament of someone looking for a child “where the carnival used to be.” Then the “Curse in the Woods” attacks you with a romp of an almost dissonant piano riff and gives you the impression you’re - The Indie Band Guru


Curse In The Woods - The Deals They Made (Independent)
A year after their debut EP, Quebec band, Curse In The Woods, have released their debut full-length record. Originally formed when accordionist Sam Harvey met visual artist and burlesque performer Jeannie Taylor at a Montreal metro station, the pair bonded over a shared musical vision and quickly augmented their embryonic group with various other talented musicians. The result is a sound that includes and incorporates all sorts of wildly different, though complimentary styles, from European gypsy jazz to North American folk and blues. Perhaps what impresses the most is that for all the inherent complexity of their chosen musical path, they retain an exuberance and raw enthusiasm that captivates and charms, and is quite addictive.

Currently a seven-piece band, including serious strings; violins and double bass, plus brass, keyboards and musical saw, Curse In The Woods maintain an affection for strong songwriting, and artists like Tom Waits and Leon Redbone come to mind on tracks like “Perfect Lawns” and “Walking in the City”. On “Rains Is On Its Way” all their quirky Parisian mannerisms are exposed to fine effect, with Taylor’s slightly vulnerable Billie Holiday-esque drawl drawing a direct line back to a tradition that belongs in a different age. Over a short period of time they’re earned themselves a reputation as a dynamic live attraction on their local Montreal scene. There’s very little chance of my witnessing them on a club stage anytime soon, but “The Deals They Made” captures their essence and provides much pleasure by proxy. - Leicester Bangs


Curse In The Woods - The Deals They Made (Independent)
A year after their debut EP, Quebec band, Curse In The Woods, have released their debut full-length record. Originally formed when accordionist Sam Harvey met visual artist and burlesque performer Jeannie Taylor at a Montreal metro station, the pair bonded over a shared musical vision and quickly augmented their embryonic group with various other talented musicians. The result is a sound that includes and incorporates all sorts of wildly different, though complimentary styles, from European gypsy jazz to North American folk and blues. Perhaps what impresses the most is that for all the inherent complexity of their chosen musical path, they retain an exuberance and raw enthusiasm that captivates and charms, and is quite addictive.

Currently a seven-piece band, including serious strings; violins and double bass, plus brass, keyboards and musical saw, Curse In The Woods maintain an affection for strong songwriting, and artists like Tom Waits and Leon Redbone come to mind on tracks like “Perfect Lawns” and “Walking in the City”. On “Rains Is On Its Way” all their quirky Parisian mannerisms are exposed to fine effect, with Taylor’s slightly vulnerable Billie Holiday-esque drawl drawing a direct line back to a tradition that belongs in a different age. Over a short period of time they’re earned themselves a reputation as a dynamic live attraction on their local Montreal scene. There’s very little chance of my witnessing them on a club stage anytime soon, but “The Deals They Made” captures their essence and provides much pleasure by proxy. - Leicester Bangs


This delectable commentary on the ‘perfect life’ scenario is a great listen – note perfect from beginning to end. The witching cabaret rhythm and sultry Beth Gibbons like vocal deliver a unwavering, cynical punch without waging a pretentious attack on the superficial way most people choose to live.

I was delighted to find that Curse in the Woods new album The Deals They Made is not entirely made up of jazzy burlesque songs. Instead it is filled with wonderful dynamics… thoughtful piano ballads “Wise Up”, indie sensibilities “Echoes” and quirky beat driven pop “Widow” all tied together with acoustic European carnivalesque instrumentation.

From the looks of the video below it seems CITW truly has their act together, performing with up to 6 members and coming across with the same cinematic undertones as their recorded material. Probably more. The enchanting lead signer puts it best when she says “If Nina Simone and Beck had a baby that grew up in a haunted house.. they would probably be fans of Curse in the Woods”.

I certainly feel more and more great music will come from these folks and look forward to tuning in. Drop by their BandCamp and purchase their phenomenal new album: http://curseinthewoods.bandcamp.com/ - Modern visionaries


Discography

Curse in the Woods (demo) : June 2010

Perfect lawns (single) : June 2012

The Deals they Made : June 2012

Photos

Bio

Curse in the Woods was born as the result of a chance meeting one January night between Jeannie Taylor and Sam Harvey at a Montreal subway station, where Sam was playing for his next supper. Sam had just come back from a three-year tour of Europe where he busked in the streets of more than eight countries. Jeannie, a visual artist and member of the burlesque troop Oops Johnny!, had begun to perform her own creation, a theatrical burlesque character, which melded the macabre with sensual beauty. Curse in the Woods is the product of the encounter of these two artists and the mixing of their similar yet unique visions.

A few short months after embarking on this project, Curse in the Woods had grown to include electric guitars, electronic soundscapes and modified traditional instruments like piano and tuba to construct a unique blend of pop music that is both accessible but avant-garde. Curse in the Woods has hence become a pop music project combining introspective soundscapes and vocal virtuosity to a cabaret-like stage presence, drawing equally from traditional and contemporary backgrounds. Curse in the Woods’ musical influences flow from modern indie pop and dark pop music like Alt-J, Bon Iver and Lana Del Rey, to the magnetic songs of Feist, Tom Waits, or The Black Heart Procession, with a touch of the macabre that has made albums like Thriller so timelessly successful.

In 2010, Curse in the Woods recorded their first demo in a friend’s tiny apartment studio. In 2012, the band’s first album was released. 'The Deals they Made' was recorded and mastered at Montreal’s Studio Victor and critically acclaimed by the indie blogosphere (Indie band guru, Leicester Bangs, Modern Visionaries, etc. 2012). The members of Curse in the Woods, who are working on their second opus to be released in 2014, deliver a performance of story telling, pop music and cabaret that captivates the audience in an atmosphere of wickedly mystic fun.