The long-awaited debut album of Winnipeg outfit Haunter is the hungry and hurt yell of millennials passing through their twenties: reaching for dreams they were sold as kids, often burned by reality, still holding on to stubborn hopes.
On nearly every track of Rivers and Rust, the ‘Peg city quintet – Matt Williams (vocals, guitars), Jordy Hasselmann (guitars), Marie France Hollier (bass), Cole Woods (guitars), and Ryan Coates (drums) – have a proposal for us to join them somewhere: the road out of town; a warm memory in a frostbitten winter. Wherever it is, it won’t last, but it’ll be sweet. Think romance poet chugging a Standard and you’ve got the tone Haunter sets with careful lyrics, distorted-guitar-driving solos and Williams wailing yells.
When the album has its foot to the floor – July, 2005 or Delilah Dreams Of… – is when it’s most successful. Slower tracks – Our War, Coyote – can get lost in the reverb and riffs of an obligatory live-show-heavy-band solo, but Haunter’s guests add some delicious variety to the 11-song LP. Imaginary Cities’ Rusty Matyas trumpet helps lift Assiniboine River Song to an ecstatic high. Where I’m Calling From brings in Nathan’s Kari Latimer to fulfil the romantic duet Williams has been singing through the rest of the album. It’s a sweet payoff.
Rivers & Rust screams Prairie album, with the sights, sounds and experiences of a band familiar with the heart of the continent built into the songs. And while winter features heavily in the source material, its poppier strains make it feels like a summer album – enthusiastic, smiling, meant to be played full tilt with the windows rolled down.
Matthew TenBruggencate is a Winnipeg-based writer. He is owned by two cats. Follow him @tenbruggencate, where is he spreading nasty rumours about you.