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Downtown EP - Erin Passmore
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RELEASE INFO

LABEL: Hidden Pony
RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2012
FORMATS: CD / Digital

BIOGRAPHY

Erin Passmore has a voice that will drop kick your heart. She is perhaps best known for her work in the Regina indie-rock band Rah Rah, where she’s a multi-instrumentalist, contributing drums, keys, bass and her crowd-rousing vocals. Erin’s voice is not brash, booming, or overdone. It’s honest, warm and real. It’s one of those gifts you’re born with. And you can’t help but take notice when she takes the mic.

Erin joined Regina rock band Sylvie, started by her brother Joel. It was Joel who stepped in to teach his younger sister some guitar tricks, as she was growing tired of practicing blues scales. His early bands Sylvie and Despistado served as inspiration for Erin to start Rah Rah with Marshall (Burns). From those early days to now, it’s been the constant motion of recording and international touring that has swept Erin away to support Rah Rah’s two critically beloved albums, Going Steady (2008) and Breaking Hearts (2010). The newest Rah Rah record has just finished production and will be released in late 2012.

Erin has contributed her unmistakable vocals to fellow musician friends’ projects, most notably, “A Cold Night Close To The End” from 2011 JUNO winners Said The Whale’s Islands Disappear album and the 2012 upcoming solo project of Jon Samuel, who is part of JUNO winning group Wintersleep.

All the while, Erin’s had songs of her own simmering away on the back burner. They are personal, poetic and reflective, wry songs that tackle personal relationships and wrestle with the confines of living in a small town.

The collection of demos, beautiful in their own right for their sparseness and jolts of Erin’s personality between takes, took her to Montreal in the summer of 2011 and into the studio under the production of Matt Lederman (Holy Fuck, Patrick Watson, The Besnard Lakes). The songs began to bloom. Friends Lowell Campbell (Wintersleep), Mara Pellerin (Gramercy Riffs) joined in alongside a chain of local Montreal-based talent in Tim D’eon (Wintersleep), Dagan Harding, Mishka Stein (Patrick Watson), Andy King, Jason Sharp, Pat Sayers (Young Galaxy) and Vid Cousins (Amon Tobin) to take the demos from charming ideas to an inspired, complete album she’s called (the) Downtown EP.

A week of pre-production mapped out where each song would go. Erin played electric and acoustic guitars, synth, piano, glockenspiel, moog and of course, handled all the lead vocals. An array of percussion, drums bass, trumpet, flugelhorn and bass sax infuse the songs with depth to anchor Erin’s incredibly rich voice. It was an undertaking Erin admits she found daunting. “It was difficult for me to realize I could step outside of Rah Rah, and do my own thing, but having the opportunity to go to Montreal and record with Matthew Lederman forced me to fucking grow a pair! When it came down to making the record, Rah Rah were 100% supportive which made it so much easier.”

The eight finished tracks reveal a lyrically inspired and worldly 24-year old Passmore. While personal relationships serve as an undeniable overtone, words spill out from her lips at times, in an obscure stream of consciousness, while on other songs they are painfully direct. There is also a nautical undercurrent to the record where recurring references to the sea, floods, water and even the song title, “Rock the Boat” a lovely modern doo wop flavored track explores the irony of how Erin, raised and constantly returned to landlocked Regina, ultimately veers toward a strong connection to kinetic forces: her life as a touring musician.

The title-track “Downtown” explores the theme a little more intensely. Told in three different story lines all relating how small towns can be mutually inclusive and excluding, it tackles feeling self-conscious, but growing up, finding confidence and finding romance. “Ultimately,” muses Erin, “I find I get a lot of my material from the disconnect that happens when (I) get home from experiencing some epic parts of the world. In the sense of comparing one place with another, Regina is a great place to live but it’s also great to get out of for a while.”

The closing track “Captain” (another nautical nod) is a lone guitar and vocal track reminiscent of the tone of the original demos. Erin’s gorgeous voice ranges from a whisper, to rich sustained lines, giving “Let It Die”-era Feist a run for her money. “It’s about feeling so much love for someone that you believe they could save you, and you could save them too.”

PRESS QUOTES

“Whether it’s the way Marshall Burns and Erin Passmore play their vocal styles off each other…it’s nearly impossible to listen to Breaking Hearts and not get sucked in.” - I HEART MUSIC

“One of the highlights was when drummer Erin Passmore came out from behind her drum-set and proceeded to belt out the loveliest backup vocals on “My Guarantee”. The highlight of the night was the ever popular “Duet For Emmylou and the Grievous Angel”, which had everyone in the audience singing along.” - MEET YOU AT THE SHOW

“If I was to be in a band, I would want to be in one just like Rah Rah…because of: Marshall Burns and Erin Passmore’s voices; the confetti, the pinatas!” ROUNDLETTERS

“Duet for Emmylou and The Grievious Angel,” where (Erin) Passmore’s sultry vocals really stand out.” - BUYING SHOTS FOR BANDS

Reviews

February 28th 2012. By Amanda Sorvig for theowlmag.com

Usually associated with the band Rah Rah, mutli-instrumentalist Erin Passmore has decided to go solo. Her first album, titled Downtown EP, is a step away from Rah Rah’s noisy-pop sound. Erin’s vocals are somewhere between the smoothness of Tracy Chapman and the clarity of Feist. The EP comes off as very honest and real-world sounding, not over-produced or showy. Erin has pared-down the production of the EP so that her voice is the focus. There are few instruments, a horn here, some piano there, but they all serve to enhance her vocals, not take anything away. Also, Erin’s emotions are evident, but not over exaggerated. And although the EP is only eight songs long, there still manages to be a varying voice in the album. An exceptional track is “Rock The Boat,” which falls into the Tracy Chapman side of Erin’s equation. It’s melancholy, but light and airy. The last song, “Captain,” is much more stripped-down, and sounds more like the focused vocals of fellow Canadian, Feist. “Married” is also a great song; it sounds raw, yet optimistic. Overall, the EP is a nice departure for Erin, and a solid work.

April 23rd 2012. By My Nguyen for The Celebrity Cafe

The key to embracing the songs off Erin Passmore’s Downtown EP is to realize that setting plays a very important role in the rendering of this debut solo project. Each track is encased with visuals of landscapes that depict even the most remote soundscapes of the heart with absolute ease and unflinching honesty.

Best known for her work in the Regina indie-rock band, Rah Rah, where she’s a multi-instrumentalist, contributing her talents on the drums, keys, and bass, Passmore oftentimes weaves her crystalline voice with fellow band member Marshall Burns’ mellow vocals, and their collective harmonies and energetic hooks produce an experience unmatched.

The Downtown EP aptly captures the moment Passmore stepped out from behind the drum set and placed her voice onto full center stage. Perhaps not so unexpectedly we find Passmore in her truest form here, fleshing out soulful ballads into the microphone like a natural.

These quiet and fully realized tracks cease to amaze. The eight tracks on this compilation are highly intimate. And this is especially relevant in the opening track, “Into the Woods,” where Passmore sings about not settling and about growing old with the one you love. In “Downtown,” her sultry vocals reflect upon trying to bring a stubborn lover’s pride down brick by brick. The third track, “Married,” opens up with the tinkering of piano-keys, and the first few haunted notes will remind listeners of the soft tinkling tunes coming from a music box. But the strength of the number will be offset by a strong marching backbeat that complements Passmore’s whispery vocals very well. In “Monsters,” the catchy, rhythmic effect is taken to another level. Passmore’s lovely vocals and the beautiful sounds emitting from this track produce a highly dynamic piece about a destructive kind of love.

The rest of the EP is laced with some very melancholy tracks – to the point where a lot of the former melodic aspects that are embraced towards the beginning of the compilation are ignored here. Although the closing tracks to the Downtown EP has many a rich, nautical nod, they overall embrace too much of the darkness that the earlier songs were less likely to highlight. What was overall great about Passmore’s solo endeavor is that she was able to ease her audience into these sometimes difficult tracks with her gorgeous vocals. Her voice is definitely that connector that bridges the gamut of the difficult terrains that oftentimes appear here. Towards the closing songs, the accessibility to the album gets ousted by the emotional quality of these tracks. We lose a lot of Passmore’s brilliant vocal vulnerability to a hushed sensibility that is overridden by a moody sound. By the time “Captain,” the closing track, hits, a lot of her vocals have lost the energy and the dynamism of the previous tracks.

But overall, Erin Passmore’s Downtown EP, is worth a delve into. The different territories that encompass the heart are prevalent here, and sometimes, to gauge your whereabouts, you just need to point the needle to your own soul, and go from there.





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