A four-piece alt-rock act based in Montreal, Diamond Tree experiments with modern pop-rock influences to shape their own unique sound. Comprised of Dave Tone on vocals and guitar, Guillaume Lavigne on drums, Marc-Antoine Guay-Rochon on keys, and Sam Robinson on bass, Diamond Tree released their second EP, The Will to Evolve, in September 2016. Following their debut self-titled EP released in 2015, The Will to Evolve was recorded at Fat Dog Studios in Ottawa.
On their social media sites, Diamond Tree describe themselves as “Queens of the Stone Age meets Sam Roberts at a Tame Impala concert.” I don’t particularly care for Tame Impala, but I am a huge fan of the other two groups, and effectively had high expectations when I first picked up my headphones to listen to the EP. Unfortunately, these were not realized. The EP is, in general, underwhelming. Audibly speaking, this eclectic mix could sound like pretty much anything at all, and this lack of a definitive sound without relation to existing music is one of the weaker elements of the EP. It seems as if Diamond Tree are still trying to discover themselves as musicians playing together and what exactly that should sound like. In part because of this, The Will to Evolve lacks any real cohesive sound or artistic flow.
You can however, hear their influences in tracks like “The Trip,” whose melody emulates Sam Roberts back in the days of Chemical City. The final track “Machina Vacinatus,” which is mildly heavier and a bit darker than the rest of the EP, carries a tone that is vaguely reminiscent of QOTSA, but it is missing a wicked guitar solo that would have been perfectly placed at the end of the track. I also wasn’t impressed by Tone’s vocals. In “State Poker” it feels as if the vocals and the lyrics are just trying way too hard to make up for a lack of meaning. Whether it is drugs or angst or “blues,” I don’t hear any desperation in it.
The saving grace of the EP is the track “Ticket Home.” It is by far the best song, and it reminds me of the easy listening, bluesy sound of the early Sheepdogs before they made the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine. On “Ticket Home,” Diamond Tree seem to tap into whatever it is that is lacking in the rest of the EP, and thus come together to create a unique sound of their own. Robinson’s bassline is what first turned me on to the track, and it just keeps getting better as it goes on. Guay-Rochon’s keys are a solid addition, and Tone’s nonchalant vocals are completely different- in a good way.
Taken as a whole, The Will to Evolve EP captures a band that is still trying to define itself and find it’s niche. While I’ve been a bit harsh on the EP in its entirety, I think “Ticket Home” represents what Diamond Tree might be able to accomplish once they settle into a comfortable sound that works for all members.
Written by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson