Olenka and the Autumn Lovers
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Olenka and the Autumn Lovers

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Folk Pop

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"Londoner Review of Hard Times and It's Alright"

On the surface it may be difficult to find a relationship between the graceful melodies of country music and the fiery social commentary of early-era punk rock.

But it’s those elements fused with a skillful understanding of folk music that help deliver another unique offering from local band Olenka and the Autumn Lovers on their sophomore full-length album Hard Times.

Following up their 2010 release And Now We Sing, which put them on the Canadian music radar and has earned them plenty of airtime on CBC Radio and campus radio stations across the country, Hard Times has a lot to say about today’s state of affairs while it pushes the talented group towards new musical avenues.
Although the Autumn Lovers aren’t making a huge genre leap into country — their folk roots certainly lend to the sound — the style is pronounced on a couple tracks in particular — Don’t Make Sense and the title track, Hard Times.

“I’ve always been a fan of that genre and I tend write in character so sometimes the characters themselves dictate a particular genre or mood,” said lead singer Olenka Krakus. “Especially Don’t Make Sense. I had a very particular arrangement in mind. It became a very early country arrangement that we ended up focusing on … going to the extent of listening to old records and trying to hear what they did for tone, what they did for style.”

Harkening back to mid-twentieth century artists like Patsy Cline and Hank Williams was also one way Krakus could draw parallels between today’s still-recovering global economy and the depression era those musicians grew up in. Couple that with Krakus’ familiarity with the punk ethos in which she began her music career while living in Vancouver and the finesse of the folk-based Autumn Lovers and Hard Times can be a complex socio economic statement about the pitfalls of capitalism.

“I don’t think I’ve actually hit the mark yet with what I hear in my songs and what I like in bands like Sonic Youth or Dead Kennedys or Talking Heads,” said Krakus.

But her character-driven lyrics provide an interesting backdrop for what is ultimately still very much a folk record, complete with the narrative focus Krakus is known for.

And like their earlier material, there are more than a few enjoyable arrangements from the talented Autumn Lovers, who are still utilizing a wide array of instruments to their advantage. Violin, cello, classical guitar and mandolin are a few of the stringed instruments that are becoming part of the band’s hallmark.

“I think what ended up happening with And Now We Sing is I realized how arranged we had become and then with these songs (on Hard Times), we already kind of knew that about our style so there was a sense of really trying to refine those instruments,” Krakus said. “I was thinking a lot about the string arrangements in the Beatles’ songs and pop music of the 60s … and how the strings would be these rich amazing melodic tapestries that would happen alongside melody lines. I’ve always been a fan of treating violin and cello and vocals as melody lines that interact.”

Hard Times and an EP called It’s Alright were released in October 2012 and can be found online. Krakus said manufacturing problems have delayed the EP’s physical release on 7-inch vinyl, but the band plans on performing a small local show when it’s finally ready. - The Londoner


"Herohill review of And Now We Sing"

When it comes to trying to pigeon hole the voice, the songs, and even the heritage of Olenka Krakus, people fall over themselves trying to find the perfect comparison. Sure there are touch points that draw this behavior out of almost anyone that hears her songs or her story and these comforts give the record a familiarity that lets the band experiment with textures and styles without losing the listener, but when you sit and listen to And Now We Sing, trying to equate Olenka and her talented band to what other people are doing is a huge disservice to the creative sounds the London outfit is pulling together.



With a deft touch, Krakus jumps from Eastern European folk, rich in strings and tradition to surprisingly powerful, almost post-rock moments (“No Coins”), touches on ten-gallon hat style country (“East End” – I mean, how great is that guitar solo?), and pure folk, but never looses the connection she makes with the listener. In an era where few people care about crafting records, And Now We Sing is sequenced perfectly, and fuses moments of genuine levity alongside the hints of remorse or melancholy. She follows her most experimental moments with some of her most tender, letting the listener take a relaxing breath (the gentle swoon of “Lark”, a track that feels as intimate as a late night conversation) to refocuses the record before exploding into surging numbers like “Sparrow” and “Shame.”



Olenka is still a folk artist (“Mama’s Bag” is a classic in the making) and stripped from any of the musical support her band provides her stories are heavy and deserve your attention, but they are willing (and more than able) to craft beautiful, powerful anthems from those most inauspicious roots. “Louise of Littleville” starts with picks and pleasing strings, but over the course of the almost 6-minute journey O&TAL offer triumphant horns, sing-along harmonies and a well executed build that indie rock bands hoping to sound like Arcade or Fire would kill for. The same can be said how “Go” naturally grows from an synth/acoustic ballad into a string laden hook and then into a fully developed rock song.



Looking at the complete, 14-song affair it’s tough to point out the best moments and even harder to find a note out of place, but one thing is for certain; Olenka is making a name for herself, one that deserves to stand alongside her peers not simply be compared casually to some of their best moments. - Herohill


"Herohill Review of It's Alright"

Three songs, eight minutes. Given those statistics, you’d probably assume It’s Alright was some sort of gritty rebirth for Olenka & The Autumn Lovers. Instead, the new 7? showcases exactly why the Polish / Canadian chanteuse charms listeners with every note she sings.

The title track swirls with Eastern European influence; strings and the smokey husk of Olenka’s voice set tension, but the melody explodes on the soaring choruses. The song is bold, but completely offset by the gentle, soothing picks of the b-side offerings. More friendly and warm, “Lost and Found” uses soft strings, horns and harmonies to erase the tension and offer pillow like softness before fading nicely into the solitary heartbreak of “Justice.”

Three songs, eight minutes. Given those statistics, it’s remarkable that Olenka does more than most artists do with a full twelve song, sixty minute run time. - Herohill


"Discorder review of And Now We Sing"

On their sophomore album, And Now We Sing, Olenka & the Autumn Lovers deliver exactly what they promise. With no indie-rock pretension or clutter, the London, Ontario six-piece leaps immediately into an irresistible collection of Eastern European-inflected folk tunes that capture the redemptive flashes of brilliance in even the most dismal corners.

It’s rare to come across an album with so few missteps. As a PhD student in English, Krakus might be expected to have a wordy, dense narrative style. As it turns out, her education mostly manifests itself in simple and evocative writing that knows where to embellish and where to leave well enough alone. Meanwhile, her rhythmic, syncopated vocal technique functions like an all-purpose instrument, imitating a xylophone and a violin in almost the same breath. Combining this with the heavy string section and tasteful use of trumpet, the band’s overall sound is reminiscent of both My Brightest Diamond and the Decemberists but is derivative of neither.

With the whole album clocking at just over 40 minutes, And Now We Sing is barely long enough to fill up an entire commute. In that time, it whirls you down alleyways and through churchyards, through country romps and Balkan stomps at a fierce pace that only occasionally slows up for a folk dance.

Opener and standout track “Odessa” is exemplary of the amount of content Krakus can pack into no time at all: In just under two minutes, the titular character watches each of her family members collapse under the weight of their problems. It is hectic and bleak, but the crunchy guitars and relentlessly catchy melody make it go down so easy that by the time it’s over you’ll barely remember where you are or what you were doing. - Discorder


"Discorder Review of Hard Times"

Looking for nuance or deeper meaning in modern music can be a little like attempting an axial backward takeoff into a half-full kiddie pool. Adversely, Alex Krakus – the nom de plume for London, Ontario’s Olenka and the Autumn Lovers — dives into the deep with a dynamic display.
Hard Times, Krakus’ latest elegantly self-produced seven-song EP displays a wronged yet rapturous beauty that holds bare and emotional truths. It’s a well-hewn and carefully pieced-together recording of embellished strings and swooning harmonies that fits in perfectly with Krakus’ strong and intimate body of work.

While it’s a wholly measured and divested recording (one that fans of First Aid Kit and DeVotchKa will prize), it’s also an orchestral pop pageant with a fuzzy folk rock feel and a country-tinged complexion. Tracks like “Only Arms” convey nostalgic inflections and ruminations of love gone awry in pointed and pretty proficiency.
On other fey and conjuring flashes, as in “Grey Morning,” Krakus and company communicate an emotional entanglement of lovers who aren’t on speaking terms. As a listener it’s easy to imagine Krakus fearlessly mining her own personal dilemmas for her inspiration, but never in a vindictive way. Catharsis never sounded so charming.
When, on “Misaligned,” Krakus distressingly decants “Oooh what a waste of time,” you’re rapt; strapped in on a detour of an unavoidable emotional response. Hard Times seems a hard won victory that is anything but time wasted. That it’s bursting with heartbreak, yet is still a joy is witness to Krakus’ genius. - Discorder


"Chromewaves' Top Ten for 2010"

Well this was certainly a better year than last year, on pretty much every level. Of course, it would have required something on the scale of low-yield nuclear detonation in my bathtub – while I was in it – for it to have been worse, but I’ll take it. Musically, it was actually something of a banner year with what seemed like every active artist that I liked not only putting out new records, but good to great records. More hiatuses ended than started and despite intending to slow down the show-going, I ended up going to even more life-affirming, if not -changing, concerts than in any calendar year I can recall. In short, 2010 brought it.

So you’d think that with such a wealth of great records to choose from, assembling a short list of ten faves should have been easier than a year without as many worthy candidates but if anything, it’s tougher. Acts that release records that meet expectations, however high, are held to extra scrutiny; it’s like, “yeah this record was good but so was the last one – where’s that next level?” which of course is completely unreasonable. And conversely, acts heretofore unknown to me had the element of surprise on their side when it came to triggering the ineffable “wow” reflex. All of which is to say that, like past years, there’s nothing scientific nor quantitative about these selections – they’re alphabetical by artist and represent what I could get behind as of the first weekend of December, 2010, and strongly motivated by a desire to get this list over and done with.

So here they are, after the jump, or if you want to peer closely at my little photoshop project above (click for a bigger version) you can try and guess who made the cut before seeing the answers. Because I know the suspense is delicious.


Olenka & The Autumn Lovers / And Now We Sing (Open House Arts Collective)

The one selection that I haven’t actually written up or even talked about before. Even though I’ve only been listening to it for about a week and a half, it demands constant listening and becomes more rewarding each time through, a trend I don’t expect to stop. It’s ostensibly a folk record but Olenka Krakus and company draw influences from everywhere and everywhen to make something new, yet so familiar. - Chromewaves


"Exclaim review of And Now We Sing"

It's hard to talk about Olenka & the Autumn Lovers without having titular lead singer Olenka Krakus dominate the conversation. Her malleable voice, both warm and jarring, is the face of this six-piece band, and it's her Polish background that provides the source of the band's Eastern European influences, most notably in her lyrics. But it's equally difficult to imagine Krakus out of the context of the group or vice versa. Together, they sound more confident on this sophomore release, working as a single unit rather than as individual instruments playing together. Where in the past things were left a tad frayed around the edges, here everything is honed and reined in, emphasizing the record's formidable pop hooks. More than a simple folk album, And Now We Sing helps to further establish Olenka & the Autumn Lovers as a band with their own distinct voice. - Exclaim Magazine / Exclaim.ca


"LondonFUSE review of And Now We Sing"

Olenka and the Autumn Lovers are one of Canada's least audacious but most stellar indie-folk acts. Equipped with a growing arsenal of sonorous melodies you might expect them to come off as a bit ostentatious. But there's something uncanny yet authentic or down-to-earth about their performances. Olenka Krakus herself, the band's leader, is remarkably graceful on stage. That's why I've been waiting for a recording of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers' music that captures this sense of authenticity. Having listened extensively to their latest full-length, And Now We Sing, I can tell you that it does effectively translate the sincerity of the band's live performances.

Production

It's not easy to pull off recordings of delicate musical arraignments but this is where And Now We Sing often is at its most compelling. Of course, the production does pull off the bands brief flirtation with post-rock on the track No Coins, and Odessa's layered use of backup vocals definitely begins the album with class. But I more often than not found myself re-listening to the gentler tracks like Mama's Bag and Motel Blues. I'm now convinced that the attraction I have toward the quieter side of the album is due to how well the nuances of Olenka's voice are captured and bolstered on these recordings.

For instance, in Sweet Little Road Olenka's breathy vocals are superbly enhanced by just the right amount of guitar feedback and drone. In Mama's Bag, the brushes on the drums, the twang in the guitar, along with the elegant string section, again, really accentuate Olenka's voice. I guess I felt like there was better experimentation with instrumentation and more space to allow for Olenka's vocals to shine on these tracks. Olenka's presence is arguably so good that the instruments on the other recordings like Clean, Sparrow and No Coins (prior to the climax) seem to compete with her voice a little much almost to the point where one or the other sounds are almost muffled. For instance, only after the track No Coins reaches 2:15 does Olenka lift her voice high enough to break through what seems like a lack of depth in the recording. I guess maybe it's the Leonard Cohen fan in me coming out, or maybe just how well the arrangements in Lark complement Olenka's voice, but colour me more impressed with the softer songs of the album.

A few ways that the album does excel at finding a common ground on the more rock-sounding tracks is through the aforementioned use of vocal layering as well as the introduction of horns. Tracks like Odessa, Shame and East End are probably the best examples of this. Olenka's voice has such dynamic range that she can pull off lows, highs, whispers and yells with quivering intensity. Coupled with the clever arrangements and classic transitions in Shame and the band just sounds epic.

Lyrics

The lyrical content to the album is partly where the album has weight. Littered with stories and references to life on the cheap, the songs are consistent in theme and compelling to say the least. Much like a blues singer Olenka seems to be interested in expressing the life of the disenchanted or those simply working hard to make ends meet. I love how Olenka cleverly places a metaphor or two to help illustrate her stories. In Mama's Bag she anthropomorphize's the Salvation Army as "Sally Ann" - mama's friend. This is where the authenticity of Olenka's presence can hit you over the head. Her voice is so emotional that she really does seem to care about the characters in her songs. They have a real sense of place. They seem to exist somewhere. I often find that this is the toughest challenge for a songwriter but Olenka seems to be able to sculpt with her words.

Overall

As a package, And Now We Sing is cohesive and the best representation of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers' music on disc. I'm giving And Now We Sing a 4/5. For fans of the group, or indie-folk music fans, this is a no brainer. Just go out and buy it. For others I'd still highly recommend the disc. The lyrics just might pierce your socio-economic barrier, or the music could entice you to see one of their concerts - which are definitely enchanting. If that isn't enough to entice you to buy the disc, the album has been in the top ten of virtually every major Canadian college radio station over the last month; it reached #17 on CBC Radio 3's Top 30 this week, and the band was just nominated for best vocals for the track Odessa by the 5th Annual CBC Radio 3 Bucky Awards. - www.londonfuse.ca


"Now Magazine review of And Now We Sing"

lenka Krakus is a force of nature. The London, Ontario, singer/songwriter brought a whopping 40 songs to her five band members for consideration, and they chose and honed the top 14 for this sophomore release. Besides her prolificacy, Krakus has a rich, deep voice that evokes Natalie Merchant and Dolores O’Riordan yet is entirely her own.

Then there’s the way she seamlessly blends eastern European folk influences (she and her family left Poland for Vancouver when she was a child) with pop melodies, orchestral string flourishes, plucky mandolins and indie rock guitar leads (courtesy of standout multi-instrumentalist Blair Whatmore).

While all the tunes are thoughtfully dynamic and spin fascinating tales, Clean and Louise Of Littleville capture an extra-special something. - Now Magazine / nowtoronto.com


"The Coast (Halifax) review of And Now We Sing"

Layers of Autumn Lovers
Olenka and the Autumn Lovers bring the chill of fall air, with Olenka’s Krakus’ magnificant voice and melancholic music.
by Ryan McNutt

It's easy to get lost in Olenka Krakus' voice.

That's not to say that there isn't lots to love about And Now We Sing, the second full-length from Krakus and her band, the Autumn Lovers. But it's the vocals that hit first and hit hardest.

Krakus has one of those magnificent voices that can be whispery and breakable one moment and then quickly shift to a powerhouse, full-volume performance. There's echoes of Cat Power, or perhaps Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, but the collision between Krakus' vocal stylings and her Eastern European-influenced alt-folk music never loses its novelty or uniqueness.

"It's been completely intuitive," says Krakus on the phone from her home in London, Ontario, noting she's never had professional lessons. "I'm blind when it comes to knowing how to do that. I've settled into things that my voice can do but every time I try singing something new, or in a way I haven't before, it's a learning experience."

Polish-born Krakus formed Olenka and the Autumn Lovers in 2008 after moving from Vancouver to London to complete her PhD in English literature. The group's initial album and EPs were raw affairs, but the band's sound grew alongside its membership. With And Now We Sing, their multi-instrumental ambition finally comes to fruition: a glorious mix of guitars, cello, violin, mandolin, glockenspiel and more.

"The reason that I'm so happy about this album is that it will finally help people see what we have been doing over the last few years," says Krakus. "The control that I think is manifested in these recordings comes from the fact that we've had a chance to work together for a long time and because I'm constantly drawn to lots of different styles."

The larger sound adds even more layers to Krakus' poetic, melancholy lyrics, full of characters struggling with lingering sadness and pangs of desperation.

"I don't think they're exclusively mournful, but there are definitely songs that are more despairing than others. A lot of the characters I've written are in-between spaces...If there is a thematic unity, it's the way in which different people try to react to the hardships they're faced with."

Her ideas about resilience are strongly influenced by her upbringing. Krakus fled with her family from Communist Poland when she was young; had they stayed, her father would have been thrown into the labour camps for his involvement in the Solidarity movement. "My experience coming out of that political situation gave me a perspective on communism and idealism that is different than people that just learn about communism from textbooks...there's always been kind of a dialogue, a desire to understand how we can inspire a community to support itself in positive ways and what we need to look out for when there are elements in the community that are corrupting it."

And few communities these days are as important to her as that of the London arts scene: She's a leading figure in the Open House Arts Collective, which also releases her band's records.

"It's a really positive, supportive and cooperative community. We're just fortunate enough that we seem to be the spokespeople, as a band, because we're touring a lot more. But there are a lot of amazing people here, and it's really a treat to be part of it."
- The Coast / www.thecoast.ca


"Sticky Magazine review of And Now We Sing"

You've heard Caribou's "Odessa", and whether you listen to Olenka and the Autumn Lover's album-opening single of the same name either by virtue of your partiality towards its title or because you read this stellar review of a fantastic sophomore album is insignificant.

What is significant is And Now We Sing, the latest release of London, Ontario-based musicians Olenka Krakus (classical guitar, lead vocals), Sara Froese (violin, vocals), Simon Larochette (trumpet), Daniel Mancini (drums), and Kelly Wallraff (cello, vocals), along with an extensive revolving-door lineup of comers and goers.

"Odessa" is a perfect introduction to Olenka and the Autumn Lover's orchestral-folk sound, one that pays homage to Krakus' diverse influences, from Wilco, Beirut, and Arcade Fire in sound to The Beatles and Joni Mitchell in vocals and harmonies. The album-opener exhibits pitch perfect swinging harmonies (most of their songs do), incendiary instrumentation from the Autumn Lovers, and overall impressive songwriting.

The second track "Clean" chugs in next like a steam-powered train with rhythms propulsive and abrasive, followed by the country-western drinking tune "East End", written fondly about the artists' community in London, Ontario's Old East Village (Londoner Shad shouts out the east end as well on his latest album TSOL).

The album's sound then slumps into a poignant but pretty marriage of blues and bluegrass on "Motel Blues", takes a long stroll through orchestral pop on "Lark" and "Mary's Song", and at times picks up steam on tracks like "Sparrow" and "Shame". Finally, it rides off into the sunset with the dreamy "Sweet Little Road in the Country". But the real standout track on And Now We Sing is the darkly lyrical "No Coins", on which Olenka's dynamic narrative and instrumentation is simultaneously poignant, sophisticated and exciting. Lyrically, "No Coins" exhibits the determined and spirited voice of a young heartfelt woman with memories from Communist Poland and a strong sense of social responsibility, and offers the exclamatory lines the album's title borrows from.

And Now We Sing will put Olenka and the Autumn Lovers on the map, along with Canadian orchestral-rock contemporaries like Owen Pallatt and Arcade Fire. Olenka as a songwriter has matured her lyrical and instrumental style immensely following their last full-length studio album released in 2008. But the most impressive aspect of And Now We Sing, surely, is the singing; Olenka and vocalists Froese and Wallraff hit every harmony on the mark, and Olenka's acrobatic songwriting doesn't make that an easy task. Catch Olenka's solo shows live in London on November 21 at Gigs, or November 25 with The Wilderness of Manitoba and Leif Vollebekk at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. - stickymagazine.com


"BrooklynVegan review of PopMtl showcase 2010"

I opted to dash up Parc to another Cabaret, Playhouse, to see what was happening there. The official Pop Schedule said I was supposed to be catching Secretary City, but instead I found a seven-piece collective, Olenka and The Autumn Lovers, who were supposed to play Thursday but their van broke down on the way in from London, Ontario. The pleasant surprises to this point were few and far between but Olenka and Co. were the biggest. A solid dose of folk, chamber pop and Americana (can you call it that if they're Canadian?) wrapped in Eastern European themes (there's certainly a bit of Beirut in their sound) through Olenka Krakus's memories of Communist Poland. - www.brooklynvegan.com


"National Post Spotlight"

http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/theampersand/archive/2009/02/11/band-of-the-day-olenka-amp-the-autumn-lovers.aspx - National Post


"SoundProof Album Review"

SOUNDS LIKE: Heartache, contempt and numbing inebriation.

WHY/WHY NOT: London, Ontario's Olenka Krakus, along with her diverse band of Autumn Lovers have perfected a fine balance between Eastern-European oomp-pa-pa, gypsy-tinged drinking songs and a French chanteuse, all with an unfaltering lyrical voice. Krakus' lyrics prod at her Polish ancestry, exploring moral inquiries from her dying planet to life in suburbia, while spinning stories reminiscent of the likes of raconteurs Tom Waits or Nick Cave (who would make great drinking buddies for Krakus and her Lovers).

The diversity of Krakus' individual songs illustrates her ability to transcend genre as easily as personal emotion and experience. For example, on the song "Soldier's Waltz", which suggests a strong sense of self-discovery in a politically tumulus environment, Krakus adopts the purposeful voice of the little Communist that could; while "Ballad of Lonely Bear" intoxicates with raucous energy and an urge to pursue happiness at the bottom of the bottle. The album is rounded off with the powerful "When We Were Children", commencing with light-hearted reflection that breaks into a conscious-gripping environmental plea, tinged with suburban contempt. This self-titled debut is a powerful and heartfelt opus for this upcoming London band.

- Rachel Weldon
- SoundProof


"Weep & Waltz the Winter Away: The Record Album Review"

Listening to Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, it's easy enough to imagine that it's 1988 at a 3 a.m. basement speakeasy in Krakow. It's late enough to still raise a glass, but the hour is sobering enough to be contemplating the chances that glimmers of hope might actually conquer decades of fear, never mind the uncertain future that lies ahead either way.

Olenka Krakus opens her debut album with the ominous line: "It was a dark and stormy night when we were headed out of town," which is a perfect introduction to both her music and its history. She grew up in Communist Poland before her family moved to Vancouver; she assembled her Autumn Lovers in London, Ont., and recorded this remarkable debut largely live off the floor in Kingston and Vancouver. Accordion, violin, cello, clarinet and upright bass colour her own classical guitar accompaniment, playing minor key melancholy that's perfectly suited to her slightly androgynous voice.

Klezmer scales and haunting five-part harmonies will have you weeping in your wine glass and waltzing your troubles away.

For a band that's less than a year old -- and with two other EPs already to their credit -- Olenka and the Autumn Lovers have made a remarkably accomplished debut that sounds like the career pinnacle of a long-lost East European treasure only now getting reissued by a North American enthusiast.

Instead, she's alive and well and just.

-Michael Barclay
- The Record


"NOW Mag - Polish Power: Euro Folk and Country, Together at Last"

It’s unusual for a band to release both an EP and a full-length album simultaneously (and charmingly bind them with an elastic band), but if you’re as prolific a songwriter as Olenka Krakus, who leads the London, Ontario-based rollicking seven-piece Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, it’s a decision that makes perfect sense.

The self-titled full-length came first. When one of its 12 songs, the hauntingly beautiful Flash In The Pan, was left off for being too American country folkish in comparison to the other tunes’ Eastern European flavours, Krakus penned new tunes to complement it. The result is Papillonette, a gorgeous six-song EP completed in time for the full-length’s release.

“For a while, I was writing two to three songs a week,” says Krakus over the phone from London. “I’m still averaging about one to two a week. We already have enough for another full-length, which we’ll record in June or July. We’ve narrowed it down to 14 from about 40. It’s quite insane.”

The full-length highlights Krakus’s Slavic heritage – the former Polish refugee settled in Vancouver with her family in the early 80s – and incorporates accordions, clarinets, glockenspiels and cellos, while the EP reflects her love for Americana artists like Gillian Welch and Gram Parsons.

“My new songs feel weighted more heavily toward the Eastern European pop stuff, but a couple are recognizably folk,” Krakus says. “There are a lot of affinities between both folk traditions.”

-Carla Gillis - Now Magazine


"NXEW Album Review"

Both Bob (itsnotthebandihateitstheirfans) Battams and Sean (everythingispop) Wright have been talking up Olenka and the Autumn Lovers (London, On) for a good time now. In fairness, I think I might have written something about them before now were I still living in the burgeoning metropolis, but, I've moved on to bigger, swinefluier pastures. But, ironically (or not) it was a trip back to the forest city (London, On) that really made me take notice of O&AL.

They were playing a CHRW (Radio Western) fundraiser/my buddy Elliot mentioned them to me/I remembered all the times Bob and Sean talked about them/I listened to their myspace songs approximately 100 times, and thus (yes, thus - in case you are just stopping by I have a highly literate readership) I sought out the rest of the work of O&AL. Thanks to Allan (awmusic.ca) via Darin @ the parallel universe I got my hands on both the s/t album and the companion EP Papillonette.

Suffice to say that after a few spins (I've basically listened to these two albums exclusively over the last 3 days) that its pretty easy to see why O&AL were voted London's album of the year. Now, I suspect that many people would kind of scoff at that award - London isn't exactly known for its arts scene - but, actually, in the last 3/4/5 years London has given birth to a bunch of pretty awesome albums: Basia Bulat Oh, My Darling; Shad, The Old Prince and When This is Over, Great Lake Swimmers, Oniagara, Bodies and Minds, Great Lake Swimmers, and there are others... I imagine... I'll also point out that London has produced (academy award winner), Paul Haggis, Ryan Gosling (dreamboat), and so on...

The albums themselves draw on Olenka's Eastern European background (kind of like a female Beirut, but less depressing), but aren't defined exclusively by that sound. Its fitting since Olenka grew up in Vancouver, is now a Londonian, but - according to the press release - has travelled far and wide through her studies (PhD in English). And given that information, the narrative of the albums - particularly the s/t release - make a lot of sense, which, in the end, kind of feels like the story of Olenka's youth (real or imagined I'm not sure) in Poland.

The executive summary: An album (s/t), which feels like the story of Olenka Krakus' youth in Poland, really should've been somewhere (probably top 15 on my year end list last year) and is making me think I should go back and re-evaluate my picks.

-R.O.B. - NXEW


"The Hour Album Review"

If fresh, interesting folk music moved units like bad pop does, Olenka Krakus and her bandmates would be zillionaires. The songs on this self-titled release are passionate, beautiful and unmistakably alive, infused with Old World instrumentation and vibrancy (which makes sense, as Olenka's Polish). In particular, Iron Pump is a startling, outstanding song, one of various waltzes on this offering that tell stories that feel ancient and timeless. Other standout tracks include Kochana and Ballad of Lonely Bear but there's absolutely no filler here. This is a peculiar, engaging listen that I can't wait to do all over again.

-Dave Jaffer - The Hour


"Northern Lights [Show review]"

Northern Lights: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, The Wilderness Of Manitoba and Slow Down Molasses at The Garrison in Toronto [Show Review]

Last Thursday night was spent at The Garrison, the newly-opened west-end venue that’ll be home to the final year of Wavelength as well as a plethora of other local music happenings. A fine example of this was this evening’s bill, featuring bands with long names from near, far and sorta-near-but-not-that-close: The Wilderness Of Manitoba, Slow Down Molasses and Olenka & The Autumn Lovers...

I know I’d been intending to see London, Ontario’s Olenka & The Autumn Lovers for a long time – at least a year, and certainly they’re on my schedule every time CMW or NXNE rolls around – but it just hasn’t happened until now. So I won’t dwell on time and opportunities lost and just be thankful that finally, I am enlightened to their myriad charms. Calling them a folk band is accurate but insufficient; however trying to get more specific can be tricky. Their musical roots are Olenka Krakus’, which is to say the Old World/Eastern European/Balkan traditions which have been well-plied by the likes of Beirut and DeVotchKa in recent years, but rather than destinations as they are for those acts, for the Autumn Lovers they’re more of a starting point and they go wherever Krakus’ rich voice and vivid songwriting would go – brassy country twang one moment, mysterious Gallic chanteuse the next and all points in between. All of that was on display on Thursday night, as Krakus led her band through a spirited set which showed off their musicality and versatility and the sort of tightness that a couple weeks on the road tends to provide. I can’t provide much more specifics than that on account of not really knowing their material at the time but I’ve been rectifying that, having already put their recent Papillonette EP on heavy rotation and can say that what the cover of “Dancing In The Dark”, with which they closed the encore, lacked in polish, it more than made up for in enthusiasm and manpower. Joyous stuff, and be assured I won’t be missing them again.

Olenka’s just-wrapped eastern Canadian tour yielded features in BlogTO, JAM and The Chronicle Herald...
- Chromewaves.net


"Increasing the Bandwidth"

July 16, 2008
James Reaney

Alan Neal has checked in early for his gig as mainstage emcee of this weekend's Home County Folk Festival.

The Ottawa-based host of CBC Radio's Bandwidth and Canada Live wanted to have time to check out the London music scene.

Last night at Aeolian Hall, Neal was the host with the most -- a chance to present four London acts. The show was called Aeolian Rocks. The idea was to bring what's recorded at Aeolian and in interviews around London to an Ontario and possibly national audience in the fall.

Neal's first job was to pump up the crowd of about 150 fans at the historic venue. "You have to make it sound like Aeolian Hall is packed," he said. The fans took the hint and cheered and clapped loudly after each song.

Opening were alt-roots ensemble Olenka & the Autumn Lovers, led by Alexandra (Olenka) Krakus.

The diverse bill included singer-songwriter-engineer Andy Magoffin, a favourite of Neal's, and blues rocker Chris Chown. Rock band the Joys were the headliners.

Last night, Krakus was joined by three of the Autumn Lovers, a lineup that often shifts from gig to gig. At Aeolian with her were Paterson Hodgson on cello, Kevin Matheson on clarinet, glockenspiel and other instruments, and multi-instrumentalist Andrew James, who also plays glockenspiel, but takes up the accordion among other, larger soundmakers.

"My kids," she called the young musicians off-stage.

Olenka looked glam in a white dress and mixed serious songs with ballads and a kidding rapport with Hodgson, her cello-playing sidekick.

Olenka is probably the only London singer-songwriter who can remind you of breathy chanteuse Julie London and country icon Hank Williams in the same cabaret-styled song.

Then there is her political side. One of her songs is called Warsaw Girl and many of them are about her homeland, Poland.

"It's a song about propaganda and storytelling. You might want to clap along," Olenka said before one song. As she sang, Olenka stomped her foot.

After one foot-stomper, Olenka shifted gears to sing a cabaret-styled song in French with the glockenspiel and cello weaving in and out. "I'm going to do one by myself," Krakus said. "I get to relax," Hodgson kidded, leaning back.

Hodgson, who has ties to Ingersoll District collegiate's fine string program, plays with London band State bird of Idaho and other bands.

During one of the switchovers, there was a bit of London rock history as Magoffin and Chown met, apparently for the first time. It was lucky CBC brought them together this summer. Chown is off in the fall to Albany, N.Y., where his fiancee will be studying for a master's degree.

Also in the house was Polaris Music Prize short-lister Shad, who holds one of London's two spots on the list. Shad's band was not available, organizers said. That kept him from performing.

Magoffin is much admired by Neal, who has noticed how many records produced at Magoffin's House of Miracles studio he has played on Bandwidth. "I've been waiting and waiting and waiting to see this guy . . . but I didn't know he was going to play everything," Neal said after bowing to Magoffin.

It was a solo set -- guitar, kick drums, that amazing voice -- for Magoffin. "I'm going to skip one of the maudlin songs and go straight to one of the whimsical songs," Magoffin said at one point. Maudlin, never. Whimsical, maybe. Brilliant, definitely. And witty. "Guelph has got their night life but they're missing out on the knife fights," he sang in a song contrasting London with Guelph. London seems to win out in Magoffin's take.

The Bandwidth formula had 40-minute sets from each performer, with Fanshawe College professor Jason Chapman recording the concert for CBC.

Aeolian Hall owner Clark Bryan, who helped put the bill together with Home County's Catherine McInnes and others, was happy to see CBC back in his house. The radio network has recorded Hawksley Workman and others at the hall. "I'm actually bringing Andy Magoffin back with the Two-Minute Miracles in August," he said. They play Aug. 22 as part of the hall's Summer Soiree. Canadian folk icon Valdy plays Aug. 11. Others on the bill include Lily Frost and the Casablancas with the Toronto singer's Billie Holiday tribute (Aug. 21) and singer-songwriter Justin Hines (Aug. 12).

Later this week, Aeolian Hall makes another CBC Radio connection: St. Marys-area singer-songwriter Emm Gryner is a co-host of CBC Radio One's Under the Covers. It airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. She plays a Home County date at Aeolian July 17 at 11 p.m.

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BANDWIDTH & LONDON SCENE

What: CBC Radio One's music show Bandwidth will broadcast music and interviews recorded in London this week. Host Alan Neal offers his insider's view of the business of making music in Ontario and will profile the four London artists recorded at Aeolian Hall last night. Broadcast details are still being determined and may include shows on CBC Radio Two's Canada Live.

On the dial: Bandwidth airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. on CBC Radio One (93.5 FM). Canada Live airs nightly at 8 p.m. on CBC Radio Two (100.5).

James Reaney is a Free Press arts and entertainment reporter.

- London Free Press (Sun Media)


Discography

It's Alright 7-inch Record (2013)
Hard Times EP (October 2012)
And Now We Sing (October 2010)
Papillonette EP (November 2008)
Self-Titled Full-Length "Olenka & the Autumn Lovers" (November 2008)
Warsaw Girl EP (April 2008)

Photos

Bio

"If fresh, interesting folk music moved units like bad pop does, Olenka Krakus and her bandmates would be zillionaires." Hour Magazine

“At different times, autumn can be the most beautiful and the most melancholy of all seasons. And so it goes for Olenka Krakus and her band, the Autumn Lovers, whose particular brand of balladry treads that line between elegance and sorrow…”
Jam Magazine

Olenka and the Autumn Lovers are a unique musical force. Formed in early 2008 by Polish singer/songwriter Olenka Krakus, the band has a sound that mingles a strong Eastern European influence with elements of North American country and folk music. The band's diverse instruments (classical guitar, cello, violin, pedal steel, lap steel, mandolin, trumpet, etc.) provide a distinctive, orchestral backdrop to Olenka's provocative narratives. Influenced by her memories of Communist Poland and by the country's folklore, Olenka investigates themes of social justice and personal responsibility, populating her songs with melancholy outcasts from both Polish and Canadian landscapes.

In 2008, the band released three albums, including Warsaw Girl, a self-titled full-length, and Papillonette, all three of which showcased the lyrical and melodic diversity that the band was eagerly exploring. The eclectic, sophomore full-length, And Now We Sing (2010), garnered critical acclaim for its lyrical and melodic depth. The band's newest releases include a 7-song EP entitled Hard Times (2012) and the band's first vinyl release, a 3-song 7-inch entitled It's Alright (2013).  In addition to this hectic recording schedule, the band has been busy touring widely and participating in many of the country’s most established festivals, including Pop Montreal, Halifax Pop Explosion, NXNE, CMW, the Home County Folk Festival, and Rifflandia.

Music by O&AL has been featured on CBC 1, 2, and 3 – including a recent broadcast of The Vinyl Cafe, and a live performance on CBC’s flagship arts & culture program, Q – and has been played extensively on Canadian college radio. The lead track off of And Now We Sing, “Odessa”, was shortlisted for a CBC3 Bucky Award and was included in CBC3’s countdown of the Top 103 Songs of 2011. The 2008 self-titled album won the CHRW local-album of the year award. Several songs have also been licensed for radio, television, and film projects.

O&AL’s music has been compared to that of Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Beirut, Wilco, Cat Power, Gillian Welch, Lhasa, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen.