Decoration Day today release their debut record Makeshift Future.Makeshift Future is like a long, deep stretch: It is restorative to engage in an act that appears to be painful. On this stunning record to be released in September, the Toronto folk band tells us that the only certainty in life is that it is uncertain. Crucially, the album provides movement forward through introspection, acceptance of change or embracing the chaos of the unknown. Listen: Decoration Day Makeshift Future

Their first EP, Blind Contour, released in 2017 is a concept record on the lifespan of a relationship until its end. Now, on Makeshift Future, they shift their focus. The album’s theme is clearly stated at the beginning, says vocalist and pianist Mara Nesrallah. “Makeshift Future is the title track, and that first track is the thesis of the entire album, which is questioning how we are going to move through our lives. When you're not met with a certain vision, if that doesn't manifest, or if there's a different truth or reality, then how are you to move through that challenge?”

The album was recorded last summer, a premonition, perhaps, of a moment in which we’d need a resource to understand uncertainty. Change comes swiftly, usually without concern. How do we adapt? Why are things the way they are? These questions aren’t naive in nature, rather simple, earnest, and said with hope.

Vocals are shared between Nesrallah, multi-instrumentalist Tiffany Wu, and guitarist Justin Orok, whose respective songwriting contributions make up the bulk of the album. While the addition of many voices and writers risk cluttering a project, the distinct vocal character and contrasting songwriting styles of each musician enhance the overall narrative.

Orok imagines the plight of a bird searching for its lost mate on “Wild Birds Unlimited,” a kind of ominous children’s song. Later, on “Paintlounge,” Wu sings of strangers at a community art class secretly hoping to form a deeper connection. The group also uses this kind of character singing to subvert expectations. In the slyly titled “Harry Goes To War,” Nesrallah assumes the role of a disobedient young soldier in the 1940s.

Bolstering these narratives is a lush musical backdrop that swells slowly and intentionally with tender sounds by clarinetist Naomi McCarroll-Butler, violinist Andrew Chung, and guest musicians Liam Cole on percussion and Ben Heard on upright bass. Bass clarinet, violin, and piano play a towering octave line together on “Miracle Island,” while lap steel guitar and clarinet softly weave through the verses of “Sadness in Disguise.” On the record’s anthemic closing track, “Meadows,” the band improvises over a meditative guitar pattern and rippling, intense brushes from Cole’s drum kit. Eventually, a cathartic melody gives way to a stream of guitar harmonics and flute fluttering above the lowest bowed string of Heard’s upright bass.

This rich, deep sound on the record showcases the individual strengths of band members, and how each is complementary and supportive of the other. With Blind Contour, they didn’t feel so much of a band as they do now. They were players supporting that project. Now, after having chosen to be together, and choosing this collaboration, comes the gathering of these like-minded artists. Here, they assert and represent the magic of introspection. There is a safety net built-in to further explore topics of grief, gratitude, hope, and loss.

In our live shows, we really aim to create that space of stillness and quietness by using the texture of the music,” says Nesrallah. “The sonic elements bring the audience to a place where they can be in that reflective space with us.”

Decoration Day describes the album as chaotic. Chaos doesn’t necessarily mean being loud, brazen or contrarian. Chaos can be the act of questioning; asserting a different point of view; of shaking up the status quo. Chaos can sound quiet.

Chaos here is in the textures of the music; these melodic, beautiful tracks that expand and release. Like a wave crashing on the shore, theirs is a kind of chaos integral to everyday life—questioning feelings, modes of operating, different moods. This record parses through these thoughts and feelings almost like an aural grief journal. There is nothing conclusive here, much like there is no conclusion or true end in life. You keep going. Makeshift Future allows the band, and its listeners, to remain so ardently present in their music and in life itself, open to whatever comes next.


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