Self-described “choir-rock” band Prayer Wheels increases their presence on the Ottawa music scene with Spring, their four-song debut EP to be released by Ringbill Records on June 27, 2016. Featuring four vocalists in harmony, this quintet has the potential to carve an impressive niche locally and beyond.
Selected from songs Pierce McKennirey (bass/guitar/vocals) had been working on over the preceding four years, this tetrad of songs on Spring, though under three minutes each, is packed with a clear full sound, sharp fuzztone guitar hooks, and a strong rhythm section of Pierce on bass and drummer Leigh Newton as a core for the vocalists.
The vocals here are the most impressive aspect of this band. The four vocalists – Pierce McKennirey, Ellen McKennirey, Kate Shroder, and Andrew Grosvenor – harmonize so perfectly as to actually sound like a choir, which is possibly why they chose the suitably apt term, ‘choir-rock‘. The strength of the harmony is most evident on the third number of the EP, Seesaw Sequence, which consists of only two phrases that convey a lifetime.
Your whole life
An escape act
Time and time again
Count backwards from ten.
Each of the other songs discloses facets of life, though in positive lights. Cavalier is “a bit about recklessness and living in the moment”. Addressing those times of “bickering in a relationship”, Charlatan speaks of realizing the fact that, despite one’s original thoughts, one may not always be in the right.
Cormorant is the strongest piece on Spring. Utilizing a quote each from science fiction author Ray Bradbury and Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan (read by Pierce’s father, Mark), this song concerns the fragile preciousness of life, of each person’s responsibility for their own life, and how, if one falls – nothing is writ in stone or final… or guaranteed.
One may always “start over”.
Though brief, this debut EP is a compelling introduction to Prayer Wheels for those in the Ottawa area who have not heard them and to the rest of the world. Hopefully Spring marks a prelude to the release of full-length albums from this inspiring ensemble.