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"Hotmouth CD Review"

Hot Mouth
(Saved By Radio)

Calgary's obtuse chanteuse Kara Keith hits one out of the park with an album full of finely crafted synth-pop (think the Spoons rather than Fischerspooner). There are so many memorable songs on here that it's hard to pick a favourite. Literally every song has hooks and lyrical barbs that run the gamut from dirty talkin' to mournful opinin'. There's also the beautifully transmogrified Stompin' Tom cover "I Don't Know How to Fix the Damn Thing Blues." It all rings true. Keith and company have crafted an infectious pop masterpiece. Even if you're not into ornithology, Falconhawk is one bird you're going to want to keep an eye on.

Whitey Houston
Vue Weekly
February 26-March 3, 2004
- Vue Weekly (Edmonton)

"Falconhawk finds its own wave"

Falconhawk finds its own wave: Calgary band lets fly on Hotmouth
by Heath McCoy
Calgary Herald, February 12, 2004

Calgary's Falconhawk "ain't new wave." Got it? Promotional material accompanying the band's debut disc, Hotmouth, makes that perfectly clear.
Yes, the band is synth-pop, but as their indie record label, Saved By Radio, aggressively states: "It's not the bland, soulless synth-pop you remember from the '80s."
Then why does the opening track, Odyssey, feel like it was cut from the new wave laden soundtrack of a John Hughes movie such as Pretty In Pink or the Breakfast Club? And why did the trio's songwriter, Kara Keith, have the same John Hughes flashback as me when she wrote the album's last track, That's Just Wonderful Of You?
Keith doesn't have a problem with the new wave comparison. She doesn't pay much attention to such labels actually, but she does see Hotmouth as being "blatantly super pop."
"Then again I have arcane tastes," she says over a coffee at the trendy Cafe Beano. "I think (Hotmouth) is a lot more sentimental than new wave, and less self-conscious."
To be certain, Falconhawk's debut disc - which will be officially released Friday at Mount Royal College's Liberty Lounge - is not the sugar-coated confection that much synth-based radio fare in the '80s was.
The polished sounds are more raw and stripped down. The pop hooks are less obvious and formulaic. And there's a deeper, dreamier, more abstract vibe to the mix. The album would suit an arthouse flick just as well as it would a John Hughes movie. Just listen to the surreal remake of Stompin' Tom Connors' I Don't Know How To Fix The Damn Thing Blues for proof of that.
The album's cinematic feel makes sense. Keith, 27, a classically trained musician, honed her songwriting craft while taking film school at the Alberta College of Art.
"I just went so I could score films," she says. "I'd make these really corny films and write the soundtracks to them."
The Falconhawk began a couple of years back when Keith - a former member of the Earthquake Pills who once made an impact on the local scene - began playing solo shows.
"I'd take my Casio keyboard to the bars and hook it up to the P.A.," she says. "The bars thought they were booking a band and I'd say, 'Well, I just fired my band.' So I'd play solo. I'd just make beats on my keyboard and it was really lo-fi. I got fired from so many shows that way.... It was really absurd, but I liked it a lot. It allowed me to be independent."
Eventually, Keith decided to record a solo album, which was recorded at Calgary's Sundae Sound by David Alcock, drummer for the band Chixdiggit. The experience was so satisfying, Keith and Alcock formed Falconhawk.
For a time, Falconhawk had a revolving door roster of local musicians.
"At one point, we played the Ship and Anchor and I think we had eight people on stage," she says. "We had guitars and cellos, everything. We took it to the wall and then started stripping it down. Less cooks in the kitchen."
Today, bassist Mark Rudd rounds out the trio.
If there's a central theme to Hotmouth, Keith says it's about pushing personal boundaries.
"I think you can be sexy and smart and funny and political all at the same time. I'm a woman and I don't have to be angry to be taken seriously. And I don't have to be Bif Naked, either. I don't have to work out or act macho."

- Calgary Herald


Falconhawk's Kara Keith is done with being pretty keyboard wallpaper. She did time with various Calgary bands in the early '90s, but the combination of freaked-out indie boys and predatory industry types drove her to abandon project after project, and she felt herself steadily losing creative control. She talks (and sings) about these battle scars with characteristic unselfconsciousness. It's exhilarating to hear it spoken with such directness, and by a Canadian gal. Flash forward ten years, and my, how things have changed for Keith. The lady of Falconhawk is articulate, assured, and decidedly unapologetic about what gets her hot - musically and otherwise. Her raspy, sexy voice lies somewhere on the continuum between Debbie Harry and Kim Deal, but smarter. Sure, she can smoulder like a certain other Canadian keyboard goddess, and yeah she's funny as hell, but she's also unafraid to be vulnerable, and she is very, very genuine. Hotmouth (surely it refers also to Keith's brazen tongue) is satisfied to take its own sweet time. Instead of cramming the beginning of the record with indie hit singles, Falconhawk dole out little tastes of the good stuff to come, and then obliterate the senses with a dizzying array of hooks and blissful synth excess. It's all done with a kind of matter-of-fact, slack sexiness that is still too unusual in girl-fronted bands, which makes it all the sweeter. It may well be true that singing is all about sexual confidence, but it takes buckets of it to sing with total uninhibited glee.

How does what you're doing differ from the faux new wave stuff that's been happening? I would say that it's less self-conscious. I'm not a music nerd; I spend most of my time listening to talk radio. I don't really know what's going on anymore. But new wave from back when I knew it - it's really cold and it's really self-conscious. And I think our stuff is way more sentimental, and so self-effacing, and... confessional.

You really embrace rebellion in a productive way, and the idea of being kinda deviant - the fact that it's fun.Well, it should be! It's just defiance - I think I'm constantly, intuitively defiant. That in itself is deeply political. And what is deviance? You're adding friction to a commonality, and that's progress. You gotta kinda roar to make anything happen, so deviance is just kinda the opposite of the norm.

How has your relationship to the audience changed over time?I think I couldn't get over just letting go. Now I don't give a shit - you just lose that as you get older. It's about losing ego, and being able to embrace the fact that you have something to offer, and not take it so seriously. I, for some reason, can play the piano and can't add two numbers together. So I'm gonna be a piano player, and I'm not gonna be an accountant. So, what's the big deal - accountants don't sit there and freak out over the taxes, like, "Oh my god, what are they all gonna think of me?"

Helen Spitzer
Exclaim! Magazine
April 2004
- Exclaim! Magazine

"Giving Up The Ghost"

by Mike Bell, Calgary Sun
March 18, 2005

Falconhawk's haunted pop.

Haunting. Beautiful. Wounded.
They're all apt.
But if there's one word that best describes Falconhawk's sophomore album Here's Your Ghost it's probably "brave."
The alluring eight-song CD represents a brave and bold step forward for Kara Keith's local synth pop trio, showing a remarkable amount of maturity, growth and courage.
It's surprising, then, to realize it comes out of a place of uncertainty and depression.
The songs were written and the album was recorded upon Falconhawk's return from an exhausting cross-Canada tour that went incredibly well for the band, yet left them upon their return tired and broke.
It also left Keith with the impression that there were a great many people, including record companies, interested in what she was doing - a somewhat frightening prospect for her.
"I was really scared because I was shocked that people had even heard about us or liked the album," Keith says, noting that meant new expectations about what Falconhawk would do next.
"And so I was really scared to record the songs that I wanted to record."
She shouldn't have been.
Here's Your Ghost is a gorgeous, shorter-days October album that breaks your heart while owning it completely.
It's full of ambient, aching melodies, with Keith singing like a bruised peach - a sweet, fragile innocence competing for your emotions with hard-won weariness and experience.
For fans of the band's quirky pop debut Hotmouth - many of whom Keith describes as 17-year-old boys, who wanted to introduce her to their parents - the most surprising thing about the new album is that it relies more on Keith's piano playing than her '80s synthesizer skills.
That was where a great deal of her trepidation came from, not wanting to disappoint but at the same time wanting to stay true to her ideas of what the job of an artist is - ultimately the latter trumped the former.
"I think that it's the responsibility of the artist to sacrifice their caring about their reputation so that they can be responsible to what they're supposed to do ...," she says.
"I learnt so much on this record - I learnt that it's OK just to go through something and put it out.
"All I need to do and all we need to do as a band is keep evolving. You can't evolve by playing it safe and you can't evolve by being self-conscious and you can't evolve by answering to other people.
"So, I've now fallen in love with (the CD) for all of those reasons."
And that's also why the album is so attractive - it's an album of dualities, an album of opposites: Brave but uncertain; bitter but sweet; accessible yet uncompromising; pop but obtuse; familiar yet forward moving.
That's what Keith and her bandmates - bassist Steve Elaschuk and drummer Dave Alcock - have accomplished on Ghost, which is underlined once more by Keith's ideas of what she or anyone else striving for something memorable in their craft should bring to the table.
"The mix of emotions and intelligence - the two opposites are what make art," she says.
"Sometimes I have more of one and more of the other."
And right now?
"Right now," she says with a sarcastic laugh, "I'm a (expletive) genius."
Show up March 19 at Broken City for the band's CD release and you'll find out that's not too far from the truth.
- Calgary Sun

"Fish's Ghost Review"

April 3, 2005
Falconhawk soars on melancholy album
Saved By Radio
4 1/2 out of 5

With a heavenly, self-harmonizing voice, Calgary's Kara Keith is back at the front of an artistically satisfying Falconhawk record.

A master of melodic minor keys, her albums come across as the diary of someone who sighs a lot when she's not drinking, things she occasionally decides she wants fading ever into the distance while weird distractions keep her basically happy enough.

There is as much want here as there are pretty keyboards, switching back and forth between crackling synth and piano. I love the sound of this record, the simple, rolling roadtrip we sit calmly in the back seat for as she turns her head back and tells us things
about herself when she might otherwise be watching the traffic.

"All I ever hear is 'calm down.' All you ever say is 'calm down,' " she sings from that same reluctantly muted rainbow of the Sneaker Pimps and the Shins. These words make the listener think that either the singer is a spaz or - because we are on her side - that the
person she is complaining to is not very good for her, if not indeed bad. On the menacing, vaguely Laurie Anderson-ish next song Keith sings a monotone "Wish I was in love with you ... it's easy when you get out."

The thing I really like about Here's Your Ghost, illustrated wonderfully by a mittened hand holding a popsicle stick phantom on the front cover in a clearly Albertan winter, is that while vulnerable, it's not whining. It is an effort that was either written in a time of heartbreak, or with one so powerful in mind that the effect is the same.

I'm not blue in the slightest and was truly moved by Keith's hurt little girl voice stressing things she'd rather not know. The very act of beauty the album creates is the hope, even if the lyrics are shy about admitting the world is a wonderful place.

And the cello and piano outro almost made me cry.

- Edmonton Sun

"Love from London, Ontario"

April 7, 2005
University of Western Ontario Gazette
Claire Neary

If the album cover doesn't make you want to pick up Falconhawk's CD, who knows what will. An outstretched arm holding a Kleenexghost with a snowy field in the background - now that's creative! If the album cover isn't enough for you, the music itself is so pretty it's nearly impossible not to like it.

Here's Your Ghost is the second bold release from Calgary's Falconhawk. The band consists of Kara Keith on vocals and keyboards, Steve Elaschuk on bass and Dave Alcock on drums, and mixes piano and synthesizers with steady drum beats, subtle vocal melodies and harmonies to create a soothing, pleasing sound.

Although Falconhawk's sound is simple, it works because it's sweet, catchy and very listenable. Keith's vocals sound a lot like Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries, though with less pent-up anger. Her voice exudes sweetness and innocence, yet her lyrics are mature and filled with dark undertones.
The album opens with the '80s pop-track "Try a Little Longer," which will pull you in and get you bobbing your head. The last track, "Transparency," beautifully brings the album to a close with a haunting piano melody and soulful cello in the background.

Here's Your Ghost explores dark, sad themes over pretty piano riffs. It's been done before, but never quite like this.
- University of Western Ontario Gazette

"Edmonton Preview"

SEE Magazine
April 21, 2005
Falconhawk's songs of innocence; songs of experience

Falconhawk's chanteuse and keyboard caresser is apologizing for the morning-after croakiness accompanying her words through a dodgy cell phone connection from her hometown of Calgary.

"Last night we sang karaoke until really late. My voice drops an octave every week of my life. Pretty soon I'll be a tenor." Kara Keith then unleashes the throaty laugh that should have been included in the "introduction to humankind" kit NASA sent out with the Voyager spacecraft-the one designed to put the best possible face on our species for any potential intergalactic neighbours.

Truth be told

Keith herself would be a wonderful diplomat for earthlings not simply for the disarmingly artless charm of her chuckle, but because she is such a complete representation of the spectrum of human emotion. She is fearless in the sense that she is so utterly naked in everything she does-writing, performing... talking-that she is never less than fully committed to the truth. And if she's contradictory and mercurial at times, well, that just encompasses another truth, which is that truth changes from moment to moment.

Like their mistress, Keith's songs are flypaper for adjectives. The eight gloriously cascading synth-pop tunes that make up Falconhawk's second outing, Here's Your Ghost, are seductive, moody, intricate, lovely, wistful, hopeful, and deeply, oddly moving. The album is a compelling and cohesive portrait of our heroine's aspirations and failings, laced with self-deprecating humour and pervasive, undifferentiated longing.

Those who say the effort is a marked departure from Falconhawk's debut-the nervous breakdown-wrapped-in-a-dance party Hotmouth-have missed the point. In Keith's world, lust is no less worthy than love, desire is no less worthy than need, fantasy is no less worthy than experience. If she feels it-if we feel it-it's automatically worthy of examination and celebration.

"The best thing you can do is take someone on a journey with you," Keith notes. "Not to sound lame, but everyone has a job in life, and as artists-for me-it's like, 'Let's go here for a second.' Not to sound pretentious, but that's what I try to do."

Boys on the side

Her traveling companions, bassist Steve Elaschuk and drummer Dave Alcock, are not simply along for the ride, despite the Blondie Syndrome afflicting the band.

"Yeah, Falconhawk is identified largely with me," Keith admits. "It's easy, right? I'm an angry wild woman. I'm outspoken and in Calgary there hasn't seemed to be a real female voice there since I was 20. It's less like that when we travel. It's okay; the band doesn't give a shit. Dave is okay with being 'the other guy.' It takes the focus off him, and he's comfortable out of that."

Alcock, a talented producer and studio owner, has been key in aurally shaping Falconhawk. "It's give and take for sure," Keith says of songwriting. "Dave is the listener and refiner. He's got my back. I don't like revisiting things; I don't have that patience."

She says of Ghost, "Dave took the role of producing and treated it like an instrumentalist, thinking and developing the sound. For two months we lived at the studio working and working on the songs."

Live, however, Falconhawk is definitely a creature of Keith's impulsiveness. "We never write a set list; just get on stage and figure it out," she says. But, the shows are led by sensitivity to context rather than just whimsy.

"It's very mindful and catered to the venue and the mood of the night. There's a lot of performance art in it, though it's not 'performance art' in a conscious or overt way. Without losing integrity and being a servant to the venue, I like to use it as inspiration. It's the little performer child in me-outfits, set designs, pillow fights..."

Pillow fights?

"We had a Miami Vice-slumber party thing in Calgary for the CD release, with the coolest set and a celebrity kissing booth with Andy from FUBAR and the Dudes' Dude Bomb."

That set will not travel to Edmonton, though Keith vows, "There will be kissing! I'm bossy that way. There are always shenanigans at a Falconhawk show."


- SEE Magazine


Here's Your Ghost (2005, Saved By Radio)
-reached #13 on Canadian campus/community radi Top 50

Hotmouth (2004, Saved By Radio/Catch And Release)
-reached #8 on Canadian campus/community radio charts

"I Don't Know How To Fix The Damn Thing Blues", BYOP (Bring Your Own Plywood): Calgary Does Connors (2003, Saved By Radio/Catch And Release)



Falconhawk is Kara Keith (Earthquake Pills) on vocals/keyboard, Dave Alcock (Chixdiggit) on drums, and Steve Elaschuk (Wagbeard) on bass. A power trio without the guitar, Falconhawk turned heads across the country on the strength of their debut album “Hotmouth”, which spent 10 weeks on the Canadian campus/community radio Top 50 in the spring of 2004. "Hotmouth" is a unique take on synthesizer-based pop music that has songwriter singer Kara Keith sounding like Marianne Faithful meets Nico while pounding her keyboard like The Stranglers meets Schubert.
FH followed up "Hotmouth" with "Here's Your Ghost", which replicate its precedecessor's Canadian chart success in the spring of 2005. The 'morning after' to "Hotmouth’s" 'night before', "Here’s Your Ghost" explores the self-confessional, self-searching questions we all encounter in our existence as a ghost inside a shell. The resulting imagery is both ephemeral and ethereal, lingering long after the audible music has faded.