“Standing on glass sheets / It hit like a cold one / Feeling our way out / We left all the old ones”; crooned by Andrea Lo, are the opening lines of ‘Wait Up for You’, the first single off The Belle Game’s debut album, Ritual Tradition Habit. The lyrics follow the sound of rhythmic drums and guitars reminiscent of indie surf pop, which not only raises a few eyebrows when the band is constantly described as “orchestral dark pop”, but also beg the question, “Who are these guys?”
The Vancouver-based band found each other through various connections at various times in various cities (mainly Vancouver and Montreal), and by Fall 2009 had finished recording their first EP, Inventing Letters. Since then, the band has managed to record with producers of Tegan and Sara and The New Pornographers, recruit a former drummer of Tegan and Sara into the band, tour with The Zolas, Hey Ocean! and Hannah Georgas, and open for some guy named Gotye; all before even releasing their debut album.
Despite the conflicts with Ritual Tradition Habit’s initial scheduled release for Fall 2012, the album has arrived just in time for summer, and was, in many ways, worth the wait. The album exudes a simplistic sound over complicated musicianship and mechanics. The opening track, ‘Ritual’, commences the album with euphoric piano melodies under Lo’s woeful vocals. Much of the album holds resemblance to the indie surf pop mentioned earlier; with guitar riffs á la Best Coast, College and Tennis, yet it’s still laced with dark undertones. The titled triad of songs, ‘Ritual’, ‘Tradition’ and ‘Habit’, all serve as a deep interlude, strikingly different from the rest of the album. All with Lo’s and Adam Nanji’s haunting layering of vocals over an orchestral arrangement, each song just under or over two minutes.
Standout tracks include ‘River’, a song that showcases the resilience and the range of Lo’s vocals. ‘Keeps Me Up at Night’ will instantaneously draw you in with the gritty distortion of the guitars, followed by a more luminous Lo bellowing through the chorus. ‘Wasted Light’, my personal highlight of Ritual Tradition Habit, speaks on devotion and perhaps a leap of faith as Lo rhythmically sings, “Dragging my heels / In a blurry rust / See naked feet / Kicking kilowatts / I do it all for you”, and as the song concludes with soaring trumpets, you’re done. Then there’s ‘In Secrets’, which will, unfortunately for the rest of your music library, take quite some time before coming off repeat.
Ritual Tradition Habit is enough to sustain you for the summer, yet with all its goodness packed into a debut of twelve songs, we can’t help but wonder what they’ll come up with next.
The Belle Game’s Ritual Tradition Habit LP, as well as their Inventing Letter and Sleep to Grow EPs are currently available on iTunes.
Check out their website for current updates and touring info!