It isn’t often that a band like the Winks come along. They meld together different styles: elements of pop, jazz, folk, and indie rock interplay with their use of “unusual” instruments. The core members highlight this: Todd MacDonald plays mandolin and Tyr Jami plays the cello against the sounds of saxaphone, flute, and—of course—drums and keyboard. The extra instruments are played by a rotating cast of characters, which on Birthday Party includes Salteens stalwart Tim Sars and world traveler Adrian Burrus.
Having just recently moved to Montreal, the Winks were an integral part of the Vancouver scene for quite some time, playing every other weekend here to ecstatic crowds of indie-hipsters and art-school graduates. They have already released a slew of recordings, many of which were CD-R only releases that sympathetic ears still cling to. Birthday Party is not much of a departure from these earlier releases, but rather a fulfillment of them. This release is a melancholy yet mature collection, and the songs on this record shine.
“Snakes (Revisited)” is a crowd favourite that does not disappoint. The opening track, “Slumber Party, Let’s Go” captures the mood of their live show, a subtle energy interplayed with interesting instrumentation. “O ” has an almost classical feel to it, showing how the Winks truly differ from other indie rock acts. Not only are the songs good, but the production also sounds great. This is largely due to the work of John Collins and Dave Carswell, who recorded the album at their legendary JC/DC studios.
The Winks’ Birthday Party definitely makes a better birthday present than tube socks or cake.