The Hidden Cameras

Home on Native Land

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The aptly named Home on Native Land sees head Hidden Cameras operator Joel Gibb returning to his Canadian homeland after a long stint in Berlin, Germany. The sonic antithesis to 2014's relatively dark, electro-pop-heavy AGE, the 14-track set can be downright bucolic at times, with Gibb's signature amalgam of sordid imagery and heartfelt ruminations carried along on a foundation of country-, folk-, and pedal steel-driven Canadiana. It's also chock-full of guest appearances, with Mary Margaret O'Hara, Rufus Wainwright, Feist, Neil Tennant, Bahamas, and Ron Sexsmith all stopping by to lend a hand. That sense of community, which always felt so integral to the group, began to disappear around the release of 2009's uneven Origin: Orphan, but Home on Native Land is positively spilling over with singalongs, sugary choruses, and Brill Building-worthy string sections. Gibb's knack for conjuring up simple, infectious melodies and allowing them ample room to stretch pairs well with the country-folk format, and some of his saltier lyrics "He is my walrus and I am his blubber" invoke, oddly enough, Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats. That said, there's a sweetness that runs throughout the entire set that hearkens back to peak Cameras outings like Mississauga Goddam and Awoo, especially on standout cuts like the fetching "Counting Stars," the nostalgia-laden title track, and the beguiling "Big Blue." A juke joint take on the soul standard "Dark End of the Street" and a Sexsmith-assisted, full-on bar band rendition of Tim Hardin's "Don't Make Promises" are fun deviations from the Gibb norm, and a campfire-ready reading of beloved Canadian folk jam "Log Driver's Waltz" feels appropriately campy, but it's Gibb's well-honed originals that ultimately deliver the goods. After 15 years of winkingly calling themselves the premier purveyors of "gay church folk music," the Hidden Cameras have finally delivered on that promise with a collection of songs that find the sweet spot between homey and fabulous.

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