As it turns out, under the moniker “Shotgun Jimmie,” he is also one of the most talented songwriters that Canada has to offer and the release of Transistor Sister on You’ve Changed Records is most definitely an exciting addition to his already impressive discography.
Having lent his capacity as a guitarist and songsmith to the now defunct Shotgun and Jaybird, and releasing The Onlys and Still Jimmie under his alias, Jimmie hits up a true studio for the first time in his solo career with Ryan Peters (Ladyhawk) and Jay Baird (Feist) in tow to lay down the drums and bass, respectively. Jim does the best he can to keep things lo-fi, but still utilizes the many opportunities afforded by the thoroughly equipped Old Confidence Lodge studio in Riverport, N.S.
Probably the most important impact that the fully operational studio has on the album is the cohesion between the timbres of all the instruments, where all of the individual contributions have a similar sonic character that makes each track mesh into something that is more than the sum of their parts (something sorely missed in most home recordings).
The cohesiveness in the recordings surely contributes to the fact that, as opposed to his previous efforts that came across more as a collection of songs (albeit amazing ones), Transistor Sister is a cohesive album that flows with intent from start to finish. Jimmie also ties everything together by employing a short instrumental flute song (performed by Jay Baird) near the end of the album, recalling the motif of the title track that appears earlier on the disc.
What Transistor Sister does have in common with Shotgun’s prior solo records is that it comes across as a candid time capsule of his mind set, while occasional nostalgic numbers like “Suzy” (a touching recollection on a grade-school crush) lend an honest, retrospective touch to the album. The lyrics are sincere and positive and touch on everything from the awesome community of low-key musicians he tours with (“Transistor Sister” and “Paper Planes”) to detailed accounts of love on the east coast (“Too Many Flowers”).
He is also still wearing his early ’90s Matador and Subpop “rock and roll” influences on his sleeve, and in the tradition of The Flaming Lips, he continues to combine humour with emotional revelations in his lyrics. “Masterpiece,” a lighthearted tune about making art that features tickled keys and a mic-taped-to-a-gas-powered-weed-whacker-run-through-a-wah-pedal-and-a-guitar-amp solo, is a perfect example of this.
Continuing to experiment with sound in varying degrees of seriousness, the album contains everything from a 16-second long song that features nothing but someone running down three flights of stairs and slamming a door (“Confidence Lodge Stairwell Recording #1”, supposedly a tribute to the stairwells excellent acoustics) to a short instrumental piano-based number titled simply, “Piano.”
My favourite bits of utilized studio magic are featured on “Peace and Love” and “Late Last Year.” The former features a looped backing vocal track (done by Ryan Peters) that truly makes the track a stand out. I find myself habitually singing along to the bop-bop-bop-bop bop-bops instead of the lead vocal track about a societal cleansing (No offence, Jim). The latter has a dancey and triumphant outro that features an intelligently arranged horn section. Along with this, there are a few tracks like the incredibly catchy “King of Kruezberg” that are tastefully adorned with some simple analog synth flourishes that manage to avoid sounding cheesy or forced.
Small forays aside, this is absolutely a guitar record, and Jim is one hell of a guitarist with impeccable taste in tone. Crunchy, emotive guitar work and a rollicking rhythm section dominate much of Shotgun’s discography, but never so intensely and intelligently as on the (relatively) lengthy centerpiece “Swamp Magic” and the hook-laden “The Stereo and the Stove.”
Transistor Sister is absolutely Shotgun Jimmie’s crowning achievement as a solo artist and is a true album in the tradition of the ’90s greats like Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. With a liberal dose of Halifax Pop exposure and Sappyfest swagger, Kilpatrick has created something undoubtedly special that is, in his own words, “good enough for me, and certainly, good enough for rock and roll.”