Expansion has been an unintentional theme in the career of Winnipeg band Living Hour over the past couple of years.

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Expansion has been an unintentional theme in the career of Winnipeg band Living Hour over the past couple of years.

In a literal sense, the shoegaze/indie-pop band grew from four members to five, adding bassist Brett Ticzon, and in a sonic sense, an obvious vibe of expansiveness permeates Living Hour’s sophomore record, Softer Faces, released March 1.

The album is airy and bright, leaving each track with room to breathe and allowing Sam Sarty’s hazy, beautiful vocals to take centre stage in a way they weren’t able to before.

It’s a marked changed from the density of the band’s 2016 self-titled debut, though the calming, dreamy essence remains intact. Softer Faces — produced by Kurt Feldman (Pains of Being Pure at Heart, DIIV) — is an easy listen in passing, but for a more engaged audience, holds a lot of depth and creativity.

"I really like that word, expansive, because even if it’s not completely dense and washy as the first album, there’s still a lot within those spaces. We’re hopefully saying more without sounds, where there’s kind of a negative space," says Sarty, 25, over the phone from the studio at CKUW 95.9 FM at the University of Winnipeg, where she and Living Hour guitarist Gil Carroll host the weekly radio show Space Cadet.

"(I)t’s more clear, you can hear what I’m saying a bit more. It’s more lyrically driven, (with) more complicated parts, but at the same time, more sparse, so yeah, it’s a little bit different."

The aptness of the title goes beyond the newfound softness of the musical compositions; it also relates to the increased vulnerability of the lyrics. The band itself is showing a softer face, discussing ideas of self-discovery, disconnection and being kind to yourself.

"(This record is about) feeling isolated in your own emotions — settling in and embracing this and being compassionate to yourself and your unique perception of everything," says Sarty, who also plays keyboards and trombone.

"Trying to share your emotional world with someone else, and instead of fostering a closeness, you feel a growing disconnect in the relationship. They don’t understand what you’re feeling or perceiving. How overwhelming but freeing it can be to navigate yourself alone. Lost but introspective faces wandering through space, moving closer towards their own inner workings.

"A lot of what we talk about on the album and what we’re trying to portray sonically I think will hopefully bring a lot of people either, like, melancholic joy or any sort of brooding moments... whatever (listeners) need to get out of the songs, I hope that they can find it."

Living Hour — which also includes Adam Soloway (guitar, vocals) and Alex Chochinov (drums, trumpet, organelle) — is currently on the road touring Softer Faces, including a stop at the massive SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, and have chosen to end, rather than begin, their run of dates with a hometown show.

"We wanted to end it here to kind of have something to look forward to. We’ll be practiced, we’ll be ready," says Sarty, laughing.

"I know touring in itself is its own journey and it’s really... it’s a lot. But what’s so great about it is you get to spend a lot of time with your songs and your music, and your bandmates and yourself, and you’re really immersed in it. And I think it’s a really good time to do an album release show, at the end of an experience like that."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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