The new Golden Seals long player, Something Isn’t Happening, is their fifth album and first proper release since 2011's Increase the Sweetness. 2014's Stay Golden filled the gap with three original numbers and five covers. But now the Seals are back in full force with a 9-song beauty.
The first single, “Independence Day,” spent 7 straight weeks in CBC Music’s Top 20 this summer, and songs like "Idiot Kid," "Ball and Tether" and "I'll Never Understand You Now" should pick up where that one left off.
The album was mixed and mastered by Grammy-nominated Philip Shaw Bova (Bahamas, Andy Shauf, Zeus), with additional mixing done by Andy Magoffin (Two-Minute Miracles, Great Lake Swimmers), and features contributions by Jordon Zadorozny (Blinker the Star), Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith, Dan Mangan) amongst others.
The digital album goes live on October 12, 2019, with 180 gram vinyl to follow in November.
"Dave Merritt lives outside Ottawa and puts out new music of an old-fashioned vein about every six years or so, which means this record had zero push behind it other than Merritt’s always entertaining online presence. He’s the kind of 50-year-old guy with Beatles deep in his blood and a whole lotta Nick Lowe and Aimee Mann on his shelf, and has likely had a Mojo subscription for the last 20 years. All that pop scholarship pays off here, which not only has Sexsmithian melodies and jazz chords, but the production here is much more vivid than one would ever expect from a home recording—even the track he recorded as a phone memo sparkles. (Local Ontario heroes Andy Magoffin and Philip Shaw Bova shared mixing duties; both do great work, as always.) There’s tightly wound nuggets of pop perfection on tracks like “Independence Day,” “Idiot Kid” and “The Opposite End of the Country,” but he gets pleasantly unspooled on the closer “The Takeaway.” This is old fart music par excellence. Don’t hold that against him."
- Michael Barclay, Radio Free Canuckistan
His Personal Polaris Prize Long List for 2020
"How am I the last guy to this party? Ottawa, Ontario’s Golden Seals have announced their fifth and final album will be Something Isn’t Happening and I only just discovered them! Well this new record is quite an introduction. Opening track “Independence Day” gives you a sense of what they are about – a low level XTC vibe layered over some pretty creative songwriting. “Ball and Tether” is AM radio enjoyable bouncy pop. Meanwhile “Something Isn’t Happening” and “The Opposite End of the Country” both wade pretty deep into Wings territory. Look I could make comparisons all day long but some of what appears here is just some pretty original stuff. “Idiot Kid” has an unique approach and will hook you in the best poprock sort of way. And then there’s the Billy Joel cover. Ok, “Vienna” is a guilty fave of mine and GS gives us lovely stripped down electric piano version. This David James Merritt guy is some kind of talented mess."
- Dennis Pilon, PopRockRecord.com
"In 2011 or thereabouts I stumbled upon a little pop gem called Increase the Sweetness released by The Golden Seals, a band led by Dave Merritt who has performed under this moniker since 1999. I am glad to say that this 2019 release by The Golden Seals is even better than any of the four albums that preceded it. Dave Merritt and his band offer up prime pop rock heavily influenced by The Beatles and XTC, among other sources of inspiration, so that 'Something Isn't Happening' is an aural delight from start to finish."
- some guy named PopPhil from Spain
CBC Music Top 20: Sept. 5, 2019 (7th straight week)
1. The Darcys, "Better Days"
2. Alessia Cara, "Rooting For You"
3. Tegan and Sara, "I'll Be Back Someday"
4. Nuela Charles, "Known Better"
5. Begonia, "Hanging on a Line"
6. HAIM, "Summer Girl"
7. The Golden Seals, "Independence Day"
8. Joseph, "Fighter"
9. Leeroy Stagger, "Strange Attractor"
10. Run River North, 'Wake Up"
11. Haviah Mighty, "Wishy Washy"
12. Louise Burns, "Just Walk Away"
13. The New Pornographers, "Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile"
14. The Highwomen, "The Chain"
15. Jeremie Albino, "Hard Time"
16. Brittany Howard, "Stay High"
17. The Teskey Brothers, "So Caught Up"
18. Loony, "Tread"
19. Ivan & Alyosha, "Everybody Breaks"
20. Billie Eilish, "Bad Guy"
BOOKIE’S TOPS FOR 2011
1. The Black Lips, Arabia Mountain
2. Tom Waits, Bad As Me
3. Wilco, The Whole Love
4. Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds, s/t
5. The Vaccines, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
6. Beady Eye, Different Gear, Still Speeding
7. Real Estate, Days
8. R.E.M., Collapse Into Now
9. The Golden Seals, Increase the Sweetness
10. Foo Fighters, Wasting Light
— DAVE BOOKMAN, the edge 102 (cfny 102.1 FM, Toronto)
"Whoopie, another great smart pop album, featuring the talents of Ottawa's Dave Merritt. This tight little album is just the kind of stuff I love, having discovered New Wave in my formative college days, and still holding Squeeze in the highest regard. Or if you'd like, a little less edgy version of Sloan, more sugar and less Murphy. A bowl of snap, crackle and McCartney. Shiny Happy People music. You get the picture. Dude wins my favourite line of the week contest for "Put your wet suit on/we've got important work to do/like raising the titanic mess we've made of me and you" from Wetsuit. But, it also includes the excellent "You were Peaches, I was Herb" (look it up, kids, this is a first-class 70's reference). (Geez, I just looked it up, Wikipedia says Peaches died in 2005.) (No, not THAT Peaches, the one who worked with Feist, this is the one that worked with Herb.) Next on the disc comes the really tip-off Merritt is well-versed in Squeeze, as the 1'33" track Note To Self sounds like a classic East Side Story track, like Someone Else's Heart. It also includes the wonderful "Now's the winter of our discotheque". This stuff makes me smile, and somehow it never gets tiresome over repeated listens. With nine tracks, only one of them hitting 4 minutes even, and the rest much shorter, the whole disc is just over 26 minutes. How I wish for more, because the guy has gathered all the great tricks I love so much. The harmonies, the melodies, the electric piano and cheesy organ, the smart themes. He takes the term "half life", and turns it into a failed love song. He writes about how he hates July 1st. I can't get enough of this."
— BOB MERSEREAU'S TOP 100 CANADIAN BLOG
"The Golden Seals leaves its most obvious influences unnamed, but if you believe one thing you read today it should be that Increase the Sweetness is the best thing to happen to contemporary pop since Fountains of Wayne and Ben Folds Five made indie-pop cool again. Even when songs like “Woke Up Laughing” take the listener into Death Cab for Cutie territory with off-kilter arrangements, the band proves it can be perfectly logical to eliminate typical pop tempo and pacing in search of something truly memorable. Meanwhile, “We’re Doing Something Right” is perhaps the best pop hook Ben Folds didn’t write for Rocking The Suburbs. “I guess we started too late / We should have met when we were young / But now we’re holding on strong / Even though we’re both a little high strung”, Dave Merritt sings, backed by a bare-bones melody built upon quarter-note piano chords, drums and bass. There’s an immediacy and straightforward nature to the music which draws listeners in and makes us feel right at home with these character sketches. “I’m simple and it shows a lot”, Merritt sings on “Half-Life”, but that’s what makes the Golden Seals worth listening to in the first place. The best pop songs are simple joyful nuggets, and Increase the Sweetness hits all the right notes. This one is definitely a keeper."
— POPMATTERS (Jonathan Sanders)
"We unfortunately missed out on the first two albums from The Golden Seals (Storybook Endings and No-Hitter). Accordingly this, the band's third full-length release, serves as our introduction. This band is the project driven by the songwriting skills of Dave Merritt...a young man* (ed. note: may or may not be true) who is quickly finding his music warmly received by critics and fans alike around the world. Dave writes and records pure pop in the vein of classic artists like Squeeze, Teenage Fanclub, The Beatles, Pearlfishers, and Nick Lowe...without ever sounding too much like any of them. Merritt has a great knack for coming up with wonderfully resonant melodies and cool subtle hooks. And he has a voice that is tailor made for the style of songs he writes. Music fans wanting a pure dose of smart pop will get a major kick out of the tracks on Increase The Sweetness. Nothing but pure effective melodies here delivered with true class and style. Nine kickass cuts including "Wetsuit," "The Year Things Fell Apart," "Civil Unrest," and "We're Doing Something Right." Highly recommended. TOP PICK.
"A persistent beat backs Dave Merritt on his third Golden Seals effort as though the band is collectively pushing through the artifice and calculated image of independent music’s current glory days. The straightforwardness of that steady percussion, solidified further by rumbling guitar and vocal harmonies that recall early Sloan, provides an instant attraction that makes ‘Kick It’ exceedingly rare given the influx of bands aping after chin-stroking complexity. Make no mistake: the Golden Seals seem disinterested in being your next smoke-in-the-armchair sort of band, as Increase the Sweetness takes its own prescription for immediate guitar licks, memorable hi-fi pop hooks and some knowing winks along the way. “We could use some education, we could use some thought control,” sings Merritt, giving some humour to highlight ‘The Year Things Fell Apart’’s soft laments. Merritt doesn’t pine for any of Pink Floyd’s ambition, preferring melodic arrangements and identifiable songwriting that pursues a timeless quality reminiscent of Tom Petty, The Cars and, yeah, a lot of Sloan. So clean and uncluttered are these tracks that ‘Woke Up Laughing’ initially feels bizarre with its electronic textures and padded organ; it follows the same less-is-more strategy and eventually feels at home despite bearing a completely separate palette. A few more left turns would’ve arguably benefited Increase the Sweetness, not only because the record’s already a lean nine tracks but because Merritt, whose work has been covered by a wealth of artists from Sarah Harmer to the Rheostatics, has a proficient resume for shifting gears. The variety Golden Seals lack on this outing doesn’t diminish the strength of their focus and Increase the Sweetness stands firmly as one of the more irresistible choices for carefree, summery guitar rock."
— SKELETON CREW QUARTERLY
"Unashamedly hooky, blissfully melancholic and delightfully hi-fi, Increase the Sweetness is a worthy addition to any power pop lover’s collection. Dave’s got a sharp tongue, sugary vocals, and a keen sense of melody. The minimal compositions flow into each other for a complete listen — really, the only change of pace is the electro-collage, “Woke Up Laughing” — and while a few surprises might add some depth to the listen, it’s hard to complain when an LP is as enjoyable as Increase the Sweetness. With loving nods to institutions like The Beatles and Sloan, Merritt once again proves his worth as a song writer. Songs like “Kick It”, “Wet Suit”, “The Year Things Fell Apart” and “Civil Unrest” all explode out of your speakers and hint that maybe we need to start paying more attention. Hopefully the frequency of his output increases so we have that chance. "
"The aptly titled Increase the Sweetness delivers sugary sweet pop rockers in spades. From the glorious single 'Wetsuit' to the Small Sins-y mini-tune 'Note To Self', this Ottawa group delivers nine tracks of candy coated goodness. Daring into Cuff the Duke territory for 'The Year Things Fell Apart' helps keep the disc diverse, while 'Half Life' is a sleepy drifter, begging to be the theme song to your melancholy walk home from "that girl's" house. Dance rocker July 1st won't be nominated as the official song of Canada Day anytime soon, but with its Sloan-stealing harmonies, it may be confused for the national anthem. This is 26 minutes of non-essential but still delicious pop rocks."
— UPTOWN MAGAZINE
Another record bound for my year-end Top 10 is Increase the Sweetness by Ottawa’s The Golden Seals. Once again singer/songwriter Dave Merritt has produced a set of powerful pop tunes that fans of Sloan and Matthew Sweet will not want to miss out on.
— DAVE BOOKMAN,
102.1 the edge (cfny), Toronto