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Arts in Review

Casinos hit the jackpot with People Watching

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On Sept. 28, hot on the tail of three singles sprinkled between May of last year and this September, Abbotsford mainstays Casinos released their full-length debut, People Watching.

People Watching finds Casinos on an expedition of sorts. Taking strides past the borders of the pop rock that the group had called home until so very recently, their debut full-length clearly grows out of roots firmly planted in the ethos of tracks like 2014’s “Invertebrates” — an infatuation with a fleeting youth channeled succinctly into equal parts impulsive whiplash and wistfulness.

This wistfulness is still apparent in tracks like “Bad Decisions,” one of the singles for People Watching. The obvious differences include the fact that Casinos are by now professionals in appearance if not in practice; we’ve long-since moved out of the garage, this much is true, but the arrangement of tracks like “Aiming,” that weave themselves between melancholy and giddiness, turning a quasi-ballad into a bluesy romp and back again, demonstrate a maturity that’s apparent in every aspect of People Watching.

Yes, Casinos move towards a sonic territory more uncertain than any they had previously ventured into, but in doing so with the same confidence and drive that fueled their early releases, they successfully shed any potential awkwardness inherent in the transition, and instead embrace a newness that’s specifically apparent in tracks like “Truth.” Not only does the band take more time and room to experiment instrumentally, but frontman Kier Junos’ vocals are explicitly under control; they were never out of control, but it’s clear that Junos now can shape and direct his vocals in conjunction with the twists and turns of more ambitious instrumentation. Casinos’ progress as a creative entity is staggering to say the least.

“Ring Ring,” for example, embraces a bevy of different approaches towards its end goal. First hesitant, then energetic enough to run a mile to, the track dips and peaks in response to Junos’ own crooning, and is textured throughout by Zachary Keely’s lead guitar line that constantly moves in response to Junos. Not only does the track feature some of Junos’ most ambitious and successful vocal leaps, it’s structured in a way that neither the dynamic kit work, nor the changing tone of the track itself, overshadows its existence as one whole. Innumerable individual elements converge in “Ring Ring,” taking centre stage interchangeably, but the track’s success is due as much to its restraint as it is to its excess.

As a marker of progress, People Watching quietly ushers in a new era for Casinos, one marked by astounding heights achieved unassumingly, and a rock that’s more mature only in its reflection of reality; multi-textured and sometimes unsure of its own direction, but always either driving forwards into the unexplored, or consciously revisiting past aesthetics from a new perspective, dynamic and self-aware.

People Watching is out on all major streaming platforms and at casinos.bandcamp.com

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