Decoration Day’s debut record Makeshift Future is like a long, deep stretch: It is restorative to engage in an act that appears to be painful. On this stunning record to be released in September, the Toronto folk band tells us that the only certainty in life is that it is uncertain. Crucially, the album provides movement forward through introspection, acceptance of change or embracing the chaos of the unknown.
Their first EP, Blind Contour, released in 2017 is a concept record on the lifespan of a relationship until its end. Now, on Makeshift Future, they shift their focus. The album’s theme is clearly stated at the beginning, says vocalist and pianist Mara Nesrallah. “Makeshift Future is the title track, and that first track is the thesis of the entire album, which is questioning how we are going to move through our lives. When you're not met with a certain vision, if that doesn't manifest, or if there's a different truth or reality, then how are you to move through that challenge?”
Vocals are shared between Nesrallah, multi-instrumentalist Tiffany Wu, and guitarist Justin Orok, whose respective songwriting contributions make up the bulk of the album. The distinct vocal character and contrasting songwriting styles of each musician enhance the overall narrative.
Orok imagines the plight of a bird searching for its lost mate on “Wild Birds Unlimited,” a kind of ominous children’s song. Later, on “Paintlounge,” Wu sings of strangers at a community art class secretly hoping to form a deeper connection. Bolstering these narratives is a lush musical backdrop that swells slowly and intentionally with tender sounds by clarinetist Naomi McCarroll-Butler, violinist Andrew Chung, and guest musicians Liam Cole on percussion and Ben Heard on upright bass. On the record’s anthemic closing track, “Meadows,” the band improvises over a meditative guitar pattern and rippling brushes from Cole’s drum kit. A cathartic melody gives way to guitar harmonics and flute fluttering above the lowest bowed string of Heard’s upright bass.
The album was recorded last summer, a premonition, perhaps, of a moment in which we’d need a resource to understand uncertainty. Change comes swiftly, usually without concern. How do we adapt and move through? Makeshift Future allows the band, and its listeners, to remain so ardently present in their music and in life itself, open to whatever comes next.