Gentleman Reg - Little Buildings (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Gentleman Reg

Little Buildings (2008)

Arts and Crafts

Little Buildings was designed specifically for people like myself, who have never heard the work of Gentleman Reg or the man behind the band, Reg Vermue. This is a ‘greatest hits' of sorts, gathering songs from his Canadian-distributed releases on Three Gut Records before he steps up to Arts and Crafts for his next full-length, Jet Black, due out February 24th. Vermue seems to be the country's best-kept secret, while his friends, collaborators and tourmates have risen to become some of Canada's biggest indie bands, from Arcade Fire and Islands to Broken Social Scene, the Constantines and Tegan & Sara.

"Bundle" starts things off, and to me introduces Vermue as Canada's answer to Mike Kinsella. The guitars are intricate yet clean and in the background, while the vocals are often breathy. The band keeps the 5/4 meter on the sly in the verses, though it shifts to 4/4 in the unabashed pop of the chorus. Vermue tends to dwell in the softer and slower angle, but I prefer when he chooses to rock it a bit like he does here. "It's Not Safe" pushes along through driving verses to arrive at the most rocking choruses on the disc.

"The Three Most Important Girls" glides by shyly as brushed snare and bass dance in syncopated rhythms. "The Boyfriend Song" is a dark yet toe-tappin' hoedown with pedal steel and piano plunks, and helps to show the flaws in my shaky Kinsella comparison. "Give Me the Chance to Fall" has a walking-tempo acoustic bounce, well-placed handclaps and a vocal line rising and falling out of Vermue's falsetto.

That brings me to my next point -- Vermue's voice may be the biggest hurdle for some people to get into this. He's got a unique tone and breathiness to his voice, but his tendency to crack his voice frequently between his ranges can be a bit distracting at times. He also sounds downright feminine at moments, as on "Untouchable."

The lone unreleased track here, "Something to Live For," comes from 2004's Darby & Jones sessions, and is another soft n' slow number. It's nice but doesn't do a whole lot for me.

There is a lot to like about Gentleman Reg, with their thought-out and tasteful arrangements and wide range of styles within their comfort zone. However, the long stretches of balladic moments here lost me, which may be rectified with a properly sequenced full-length. This quick introduction did leave me interested in what comes next on Jet Black.