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"Reviews:: thomas/richard - The Promises We Make"

After listening to The Promises We Make, the latest album from Halifax's Thomas/Richard (aka Richard Lann), the natural instinct might be to think of him as a tremendously shy or invtroverted soul.
The intimate, confessional nature of tracks like Ghosts Don't Hurt Other Ghosts or Alone With The Dark are more likely to conjure up images of a singer-songwriter alone in his room pouring his soul into song, rather than in a packed club rocking out. All that being said, the lengthy list of contributors on this album suggests that Thomas/Richard is nowhere near as shy as I'd have you believe.

For his second full-length album, this New Glasgow native enlisted the talents of folks like Jon McKiel, as well as members of bands like the Sleepless Nights, Quiet Parade, and The Establishment. As our reviews for the latest albums from Jon McKiel and The Sleepless Nights can attest, Thomas/Richard is working with some talented people. Despite the valuable contributions from the guests, this remains a Thomas/Richard album through and through. His songwriting is vulnerable, and honest, yet he always maintains a pop aesthetic on his songs, which manifests itself in catchy hooks on most songs, even the saddest ones.

Richard's delivery also keeps your attention, as he tends to draw out his verses, stretching words for dramatic effect no matter the tempo of the song. The album opener, A Special Noise, provides a good example of this. It's an uptempo track, featuring breakbeat-stlye drums, strummed guitar and some great horns, matched with drawn-out vocals that one would normally expect on a slower song. It's a great combination, makes the song very memorable. The horns are great too. I haven't said this in a while, but horns make everything better. Things take a turn for the sad on the second song, with The Fire feeling as hopeless as A Special Noise does optimistic.

If I had to pick a theme song for this album, it might be Better Days Are Getting Better with it's lyics about being alone but not lonely. That theme of sadness mixed with an undercurrent of acceptance/happiness runs throughout the album. It's also a great song, starting out as a quiet, solo acoustic with drums and group vocals joining the mix halfway through. When Hearts Explode, a mix of uptempo acoustic and electric guitar, does an excellent job conveying the emotion involved when one has to give up on a love that just isn't going to happen. Great title, great song, perhaps my favorite (either this or A Special Noise).

The fragile Ghosts Don't Hurt Other Ghosts also possesses a nifty title and is easily the best song I've ever heard that has a backing track composed of acoustic guitar, footsteps, rain, and wind. From Here is a catchy look at dealing with the loss of a someone close to you, it also has some lovely xzylophone and horns. Perhaps I've mentioned how I feel about the horns, needless to say, I like this one.

Thomas/Richard's bio references people like Low, Hayden, and Elliot Smith. If you're at all interested in those folks, I would suggest that The Promises We Make is absoutely worth your time. I hear he may be touring in the Spring, but for now you can, and should, enjoy this lovely, poigniant album. -

"some older press for 7" split w/ sleepless nights"

The quiet one
Bedroom recorder turned performer Thomas/Richard drops a new recording this week. Shannon Webb-Campbell stops in for a listen.
by Shannon Webb-Campbell

"I'm growing a bit concerned as I'm still waiting for the records to arrive from Nashville," says Richard Lann, over a bottle of pulp-free orange juice at Uncommon Grounds. "I wish that they were being made over in Dartmouth so I could just pick them up."

While these wrinkly details are being ironed out, Lann has been mucking around with Aaron Wallace, founder of Sleepless Recordings, on drums and Matt MacDonald on bass as Thomas/Richard, who with the Sleepless Nights will celebrate their drowsy 7-inch split release with Jon Samuel at Gus' Pub on January 26.

At the ripe old age of 23, Lann should add a few notches to his belt—he began networking while still living in New Glasgow by trekking into town and snapping shots at local shows. Once the rumours surfaced that this shutterbug also played music, he was asked to open for Wintersleep for their gig at the North End Recreation Centre in 2004. Since then he has shared the stage with Jill Barber, Xiu Xiu, Brian Borcherdt, Folds of Policy, Contrived and more.

"I never intended for anyone to ever really hear these songs I wrote," he says. "I'm pretty shy and quiet. I don't even consider myself a very good guitar player or singer."

Thomas/Richard draws on the intimacy of Hayden's bedroom recordings and combines them with the vulnerability and frailty of Elliot Smith. His hushed melodies are slow-fi lullabies, with the occasional muted lyric layered over a few chords.

In contrast to his shy demeanor, Lann finds performing to be the most enjoyable part of the music-making process.

"I don't know why but I find it easier to be in a room performing with a lot of people around," he says. "Instead of something more intimate, like a few people sitting around a bedroom or something. I guess there's less pressure. If I get nervous onstage I usually start telling bad jokes."

His pseudonym pays homage to his childhood—he was born Thomas Richard Calvin Lann. He was known as Thomas until age five. "People will see photographs of me as a kid wearing a name tag that reads Thomas," he says. "They usually think I have a brother but it's me. My grandmother still calls me Thomas-Richard so the name is sort of a nod to that."
- The Coast

"Reviews:: thomas/richard - & harold EP"

If you know me, you'll know that I'm one of those people who pretty much lives their life according to the wisdom provided by antiquated sayings like "the early bird gets the worm", "a penny saved is a penny earned", and "a stitch in time saves nine" (wait, scratch that last one, that just sounds like nonsense). Another one of these gems is "Never trust a man with two first names", wait, maybe that's actually a cheap joke from Talladega Nights. Regardless of where it's from, I'm beginning to doubt it's accuracy, thanks to one man:


Now granted Thomas/Richard is actually a combination of Richard Lann's first and middle names, but it's not that technicality that's poking holes in what appears to be an otherwise foolproof theory, but rather the utter sincerity with which Thomas/Richard delivers every note on his new EP & Harold. If anything, listening to T/R gives you the impression that he's extremely trustworthy and is also likely to place too much trust in others, thus opening himself up to all types of heartbreaks.

But never fear, as on his previous release, The Promises We Make, T/R has surrounded himself with plenty of music-making friends, so I don't think there's any need to fear that he'll be lonely. Opener Sleepless Nights finds a number of those friends joining him to beef up this lovely drums & uptempo guitar-led track with some group vocals and instrument assistance (Trevor Murphy who mans the bass, is not only T/R's bandmate in Quiet Parade, but he's also in rotating Halifax ensemble Sleepless Nights! It's like six degrees of K. Bacon, only without K. Bacon, or, I guess, like 5 of the degrees). Jon McKiel pitches in with some vocal assistance, on what I think is my favorite song on the album, Golden Halo. It's a heartfelt, us vs. the world kind of love song, which finds T/R comparing love to a halo that will protect he and his love from "trust fund hippie kids", among other things. If one could buy insurance to provide that kind of protection, I would seriously consider buying some.

When All Dressed Up came on as I was going through this album the first time, I was sure I'd heard it on his last album, but when I went back to check, that was not the case. Turns out, I had heard it before, but on The Gooseberry Thrush Hermit tribute album. As I said of the song in that review "Thomas/Richard does a rather vulnerable version of Smart Bomb's All Dressed Up which is not the kind of sound one thinks of when the hermit is concerned, but I think it works quite well." Indeed. & Harold has a number of mini-songs (sub one minute) on it, but (this is a good place to be) is like the meeting of those mini songs and the regular ones, with some church-like organs being added to T/R's familiar acoustic strum.

Because of those mini-songs, & Harold breezes by at a zippy fifteen minutes, and I have to wonder if Thomas/Richard might expand those songs for a future release. Either way, & Harold is very enjoyable as is, and it will undoubtedly please those who enjoyed T/R's last album, and serve as an excellent introduction to those who are new to this multi-talented Haligonian (he's also known in Halifax for his photographic work that documents the music scene here). -

"thomas/richard: The Promises We Make"

This is one of the best records I have heard in a really long time. A collaboration with a group of his Halifax indie rock musician friends (including, but not limited to members of The Establishment, Jon McKiel, Sleepless Nights & Quiet Parade), The Promises We Make is one of the most honest and genuine albums to ever come out of Halifax. thomas/richard's lyrics are extremely reflective. This album was released just this past Wednesday, and it is a gem that you have to get your hands on.

Songs to check out: "From Here," "Warnings of Killers of Men," & "When Hearts Explode." -

"Reviews :: Songs for the Gang - Thrush Hermit Tribute"

Tribute albums are fun. Well, I should clarify that: Tribute albums done by artists who have a genuine affection for the artist or band being paid tribute to are usually a lot of fun. That was certainly the case on Gooseberry Records tribute to the Inbreds, an album I enjoyed a great deal. This makes sense, because when someone is involved with an album like this for the right reasons (and not, say, because the artist being honoured is huge or their label forced them to) they generally take the time to pick a song that means something to them, and they put some thought into the arrangement of that song so you don't just end up with a flat cover tune. All of this is essentially to say I was pretty excited to hear Gooseberry's latest tribute album: Songs For The Gang - which is a tribute to Halifax indie rock heroes Thrush Hermit.

If you know our history here at the hill, you know we are old curmudgeons who went to High School here in Halifax with the members of the Hermit: Ian McGettigan, Rob Benvie, Joel Plaskett, and original drummer Alex Grace (from when they were called The Hoods). Because of that, we're usually interested in most things hermit related - so we try and keep up with all things Plaskett, have covered Rob & Ian's doings as Camouflage Nights, and I talked to Alex a couple years ago at the grocery store. So when you weigh that against the stellar lineup of artists from Halifax, Toronto, and beyond, expectations were raised quite high for this one.

Thankfully, the album delivers. Unlike some of their peers at the height of Halifax's first music scene uprising in the 90's, Thrush Hermit was always influenced by big, 70's style chunky riffs, and their sound reflected that. So, I was curious to see how some of the acts listed with a lighter sound would interpret the hermit's songs, and my curiosity was sated by the first track, Rebekah Higgs cheery take on Clayton Park's From The Back Of The Film. It doesn't have the riffs or rock cockiness of the Plaskett-helmed original, but it oozes with charm and has horns! A great song. French Inhale from the band's Murderecords debut Smart Bomb is another of their more anthemic songs, and Laura Borealis' stripped down take on the song couldn't be more different from the original, but it's really quite haunting.

Toronto's Meligrove Band adds some piano to their version of Sorry If Your Heart Has No More Room from the Hermit's Elektra release Sweet Homewrecker, and the results are pretty impressive. Fine work is also done by another Toronto band, with Galore's spacious version of We Are Being Reduced being an album standout. Galore also just happens to be fronted by a member of another iconic Halifax band, as frontman Barry Walsh was a member of Cool Blue Halo. The non-Maritime Canadian content on Songs For The Gang extends out to Saskatoon, as Junior Pantherz contribute an up-tempo, organ-filled version of Hated It, which was featured on the Mallrats soundtrack.

But this is a Thrush Hermit tribute after all, so you might guess that there is plenty of participation by Halifax bands. And you guess correct. Ruth Minnikin & Her Bandwagon contribute a great version of Oh My Soul!, it has an almost old school soul feel to it, I enjoy it. Jon McKiel doesn't try to match Plaskett's falsetto on Violent Dreams, but otherwise his version is pretty faithful to the original. Heavy-indie (did I just make that up? Perhaps) outfit The Establishment attack Clayton Park favorite The Day We Hit The Coast with gusto, and the results are as likely to make you want to move as much or more than the original. Thomas/Richard does a rather vulnerable version of Smart Bomb's All Dressed Up which is not the kind of sound one thinks of when the hermit is concerned, but I think it works quite well.

In fact this whole album works very, very well. If you're a long time Thrush Hermit fan, I can't imagine you won't find plenty to like on this album, and if you are new to the band it's simply a great collection of songs. 18 songs at that, with only a few missteps to be found, so I have to says congrats to Scott at Gooseberry for doing a fine job compiling these songs. So buy a copy of this one when it drops on June 24th and encourage him to go ahead and put out the Eric's Trip and Super Friendz compilations he has in the works.


2009 - & harold
2007 - The Promises We Make
2006 - "Lion" split 7" vinyl w/ Sleepless Nights
2005 - I Just Wanted To Be Sure Of You



thomas/richard has shared the stage with such diverse and acclaimed acts as Wintersleep, Xiu Xiu, Contrived, Jill Barber, Rebekah Higgs, Brian Borcherdt (of Holy Fuck), Share, Sleepless Nights, Holy Shroud, and The Microphones.

'The Promises We Make' and '& harold' also feature a wide variety of guest collaborators, including Jon McKiel, Erika Leblanc, and members of Sleepless Nights, Ruby Jean and the thoughful bees, Quiet Parade, and The Establishment.

& harold is available now from itunes, Zunior, & Sonic Unyon.