The Toronto Streetcar Sessions, Part 4: Parks & Rec

Oh sure, you can dismiss us as biased if you like, given that we were there when it was recorded and the whole thing was a produced by Milan Schramek, a friend of ours. But after a few listens, we're pretty sure that Parks & Rec's live EP from the Toronto Streetcar Sessions is going to end up being one of our favourite Canadian live albums ever. It will, without a doubt, be playing on our headphones all summer.

The songs are gorgeous, sprawling compositions, sometimes delicate, sometimes soaring. The easiest and laziest comparison would probably be to say the recordings sound like they were played by an acoustic Plants & Animals. The band's musicianship is impressive; they play with the kind of precision that tends to make for the best live recordings. (Seriously: listen to the guitar-work on "Lay Of The Land" or "Get By".) Our very favourite parts, however, are probably the powerful voices of frontman Charles Tilden and vocalist Cristina Taborda. They rise and fall and compliment each other perfectly throughout the five songs. At times, they are heartbreakingly beautiful.

Tragically, they're made even more so because it's the last time we'll hear the pair sing together; Taborda passed away days after their session was recorded.

"They performed and they were fantastic," Schramek recalls, having known the band through their talented vocalist, "and then about a week after they performed their set she passed away in her sleep due to a seizure. They found out later that she had brain tumours that were undiagnosed. That was a huge shock to everybody. Nobody saw it coming.

"[She and Tilden] came into the studio to hear their mixes on that Monday night and then she went home right after and went to sleep and didn’t wake up. That hit us all hard. Especially the family and the band and all the people who really knew her well. It must have been really hard for them to deal with. It was hard enough for me, so I can’t imagine what they had to go through."

So for us, as we travel around the city this summer with these songs on our headphones, we'll be thinking of them as some of our favourite live recordings, a document of an inspiring event and a memory of a great concert. For some, sadly, they will mean a whole lot more.

Part Five: The Worldly Savages is here.

Below you'll find a download of the live EP from Parks & Rec, along with videos and photos of the set. This is the fourth of a six part series. We've already posted Part One: The Grim Preachers, Part Two: Donlands And Mortimer and Part Three: Ivy Mairi. If you want to download all of the MP3s for all of the sessions right away, you can head straight to the Toronto Streetcar Sessions website.

Photos courtesy Milan Schramek. Text by Adam Bunch.

Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. He's been on the Polaris Prize jury, lectured at Trampoline Hall and written for PopMatters, Crawdaddy!, 24 Hours and a whole bunch of other places. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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