Author Archives: Juliana Van Amsterdam

JNR233_Deerhoof_Mountain-Moves_1024x1024

Album Review: Mountain Moves – Deerhoof

As the reigning avante-garde veterans with a career spanning 24 years, it’s not surprising that Deerhoof have taken it upon themselves to gift us with the most intelligent punk protest of 2017. Make no mistake, Mountain Moves is definitely a protest album, with most of the lyrics critiquing the outcome of the U.S. election in one way or another. But Deerhoof expertly rise above the labels cast upon most protest albums, choosing instead to outwit their enemies by crooning barbed insults set in poetry instead of screaming out a list of injustices (which, at this point, would take much longer than the 40-minute album allows).

Deerhoof have always incorporated a variety of different musical genres and styles into their thirteen previous studio albums, and on Mountain Moves it appears that they are ready to up the ante. Each track is slightly different than the rest, keeping the listener on their toes; the fifteen tracks speed by in no time at all, with originals broken up at pivotal moments by interesting covers. Mountain Moves also proves the old adage that strength lies in numbers, employing numerous collaborators such as Juana Molina, Xenia Rubinos, and Awkwafina. Deerhoof creates a colorful tapestry of sound, the diverse textures noticeable but working together to achieve a common goal.

As the opener for Mountain Moves, “Slow Motion Detonation” signifies a return to the stage for Deerhoof. It smolders and simmers, a slow burn of a track that proves to be an interesting tactical choice; but then again, Deerhoof has never had a penchant for the ordinary or expected. “I Will Spite Survive” is the pop punk album that we’ve been looking for since January 2017, a highly accessible track that features Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. Her smoky mezzo-soprano blends very well with lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki’s reedier soprano as they alternate singing the chorus: “Sleep at night/If you can stay alive/Stay alive/If you can sleep at night.”

“Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You” easily serves as the most musically diverse track, a powerhouse that showcases classic punk guitar riffs while Awkwafina spits fiery rhymes. At one point, there is an abrupt shift in mood before returning to sizzling pop melody; the track moves effortlessly between hip hop, punk, and dream pop, a stunning reflection of existential angst and confusion. “Ay That’s Me” digs deeper into this theme, with esoteric lyrics provided by drummer Greg Saunier and lush, atmospheric instrumentals. The track slowly builds to a crescendo before a fleeting burst of strings catalyzes its decomposition; mysterious and haunting from start to finish.

The title track, “Mountain Moves,” is a truly bizarre and experimental track; but again, is anyone surprised? Matsuzaki alternates between spoken-word English and Japanese lyrics, an interesting use of her vocal talents and a chance for her to sing in her native language. However, it is Matana Roberts who makes the track come alive with her spectacular trumpet skills. Deerhoof includes three cover tracks on Mountain Moves, all different and relevant in their own right. “Gracias a la Vida” (Vioeta Parra) provides a beautiful, haunting segue in the first third of the album, the sorbet to Mountain Moves’ multi-course meal. Matsuzaki adds her interpretation of the Staples Singers’ “Freedom March,” morphing it into a rockabilly protest anthem.

The album finishes with “Small Axe” (Bob Marley), putting the perfect finishing touch – voila! – on such a cleverly-masked protest album. Deerhoof chooses to take a completely different approach with this track, stripping the song of any instrumentals save a few piano chords. This newfound intimacy allows the listener to internalize the band’s final fighting words: “If you are the big tree/We are the small axe/Ready to cut you down/To cut you down.”

Album released: September 8, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

makanda-pierre-kwenders-joyeuse-mosaique-cult-L-3N9Wt1

Album Review: MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time – Pierre Kwenders

Pierre Kwenders may have broken the bank in terms of long titles, but for an album as expansive as MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time, it’s more than well-deserving. Kwenders (née José Louis Modabi) is of Congolese descent but moved with his family to Quebec at sixteen; he has since become a darling of the Montreal underground dance scene as co-creator of the clandestine dance collective, Moonshine. Fluent in French, English, Lingala, and Tshibula, Kwenders employs his vast linguistic and musical acumen to weave a contemporary “Pan-African sound.”

MAKANDA is Kwenders’ sophomore full-length release, and it strays from the more experimental electronic Le Dernier Empereur Bantou by leaning into the classic rumba of his homeland and incorporating the diverse music styles he grew up with: classic Québécois hip hop, Afropop, and influences from his days as a Congolese-Catholic choir boy. Additionally, Kwenders travelled across the continent to Seattle, pairing up with Shabazz Palaces’ Tendai Maraire and many others to perfect this all-inclusive album; collaborations on various tracks involve Kae Sun, Tanyaradzwa, Ishmael Butler (Ish aka Palaceer Lazaro), and Hussein Kalonji. 

The album centers around three universal themes. First and foremost is strength: “Makanda” is Tshibuli for strength, and here Kwenders is specifically paying tribute to the strength he has derived from the women in his life, notably his mother, aunt, and sister. The other two themes center around the all-powerful, encompassing feeling of love, and the ability to share it and celebrate life with love through music. MAKANDA breathes these universal themes to life with a vibrant energy that incorporates Afrocentric melodies, the hip hop of his youth, and the creative dance beats that are currently taking Montreal by storm; it is, quite literally, an album that spans the globe.

“Woods of Solitude” was purportedly the first track Kwenders and Malaire produced together for MAKANDA, and their combined creativity shines in this lush, complex track. Kwenders’ husky vocals ground the billowing instrumentals, and his use of syncopation amidst the swirl of brassy synth drum, guitar, and heavy bass helps to keep things from flying out of control. “La La Love” has a more contemporary pop sound, but still retains the rumba beat accompanied by a lilting, delicate guitar melody. Tanyaradzwa and Kae Sun are notable features.

“Makanda” brings a solemn musical theme to the surface with its complex tonal nature. The mbira lends a more haunting, foreboding sound this time around, and vocal contributions from Palazeer Lazaro and SassyBlack serve to strengthen the track. “Sexus Plexus Nexus” is a sensuous, layered romp of a track that harks back to disco and soul while maintaining that classic, syncopated rumba rhythm. The saxophone is featured here at the forefront of a colorful musical tapestry, aided by synth, guitar, and a relaxed dance beat. It is easily the most celebrated and celebratory track on the album.

When listening to MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time, it is impossible not to be transported out of whatever universe in which you currently reside (for me, it would be the sweltering heat wave in Montreal) and into an all-inclusive, worldwide dance party. Kwenders is sending out a call for everyone to get up and do exactly what the otherwise-inane “LIVE LAUGH LOVE” signs implore. It’s a call to stand up and dance in spite of the cloud of hopelessness that seems to have enveloped the world, and I am here for it. Would you like to dance with me?

Album released: September 8, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

The welcoming sign to Rouyn-Noranda, birthplace of FME

CKUT @ FME 2017: Post-Fest Field Journal

This past weekend I made the 9-hour trek to represent CKUT at Festival de musique émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (FME). I spent two nights in the pine-rimmed rural city of Rouyn-Noranda, hopping from venue to venue in an attempt to escape the unseasonal chill that descended on Quebec this Labour Day weekend. Despite the slightly disappointing “summer” weather, the festival-goers and locals alike came through on a collective promise to make the fifteenth FME a fête to remember.

While I was only able to experience half the festival – it ran from Thursday, August 31 to Sunday, August 3 – I was able to compile a comprehensive “field journal” of sorts for this truly unique festival experience. Hopefully, along with some visual aids, it will serve to successfully capture the essence of FME 2017. Bonne lecture! Continue reading

fme-festival-de-musique-emergente-en-abitibi-temiscamingue

CKUT @ FME 2017: Preview Playlist!

The end of summer is nigh, but don’t shed your festival gear just yet: we are just a week away from the 15th edition of the Festival de musique émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (FME), held from August 31 to September 3 in southwestern Quebec. This year, close to 70 artists, most of them Canadian or Québecois, will descend on the sleepy city of Rouyn-Noranda and party all Labour Day weekend.

To prepare you for this unique festival experience, this author has prepared a curated Spotify playlist featuring artists who will be performing at FME 2017. Below are short descriptions of the tracks and artists for you to peruse at your leisure.

Look out for exclusive interviews with artists from the festival on TOTAL ECLIPSE in the coming weeks, as well as live coverage coming at you from my CKUT Twitter account, @jmvanamsterdam.

FME 2017 HOT PICKS

  1. Pierre Kwenders (“Woods of Solitude”): Kwenders is a Congolese-Canadian rapper and musician who blends traditional African themes with dance music and hip-hop. He performs on August 31 at 9:15pm.
  2. Thus Owls (“Smoke Like Birds”): Thus Owls is a Swedish-Canadian husband-and-wife duo based in Montreal. Together they create a dark, layered indie pop sound. Thus Owls perform on August 31 at 8:00pm.
  3. Phillipe B (“Explosion”): Phillipe B is a Québecois singer-songwriter hailing from Rouyn-Noranda, though he is currently based in Montreal. He produces haunting, expansive music that incorporates acoustic guitar plucking and orchestral accents. Phillipe B performs on August 31 at 9:00pm.
  4. La Mverte (“The Inner Out”): La Mverte is a Parisian electronic artist whose music is reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s “robot pop.” He performs on August 31 at 5:00pm.
  5. La Bronze (“Aimons-nous”): La Bronze is a band hailing from Quebec, blending a capella harmonies with alt-rock instrumentals. They perform on August 31 at 8:30pm.
  6. A Tribe Called Red (“R.E.D.”): A Tribe Called Red is a Canadian electro-hip-hop group based out of Ottawa. The trio is comprised of First Nations members, and they famously meld “powwow step” with hip-hop and dubstep to create powerful, contemporary powwow dancehall music. ATCR perform on August 31 at 10:15pm.
  7. Andy Shauf (“The Musician”): Andy Shauf is a Saskatchewanian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who creates highly-acclaimed indie pop, notable for its inclusion of the clarinet. He performs on August 31 at 10:15pm. Continue reading
a0513357620_16

Album Review: Vivid – Daniel Arthur Trio

As the title of their debut full-length album would suggest, the music that flows from the Daniel Arthur Trio can only be described as vivid. Vibrant. Vivacious. I could go on. The fact of the matter is, it would be impossible to mistake these recent Schulich Music School graduates for sophomoric amateurs, not to mention their expanding resumé. In 2016, while still at McGill University, the trio performed at the internationally-renowned Montreal Jazz Festival, and this year have taken third place at the Conad Jazz Fest (Perugia) and a semifinalist title at the Bucharest International Jazz Competition.  Daniel Arthur, a pianist by trade and the trio’s “frontman,” was performing with the Seattle Opera while still in high school, and has played classical piano since the age of seven.

All arrangements on Vivid are of his own composition, and it’s clear from the get-go that he has an ear for the ebb and flow of the tracks. The album moves as a river might: at times still and quiet, at others roaring along, almost unhinged. Arthur’s piano may wander, but it is always brought back by Ethan Cohn’s steady bass and Eric Maillet’s clever drums. The trio members have all been formally trained as musicians, and it shines in their performances; everything is precise, even when the intricate harmonies present as hectic or loose.

The three instruments will expertly play games of tag and tug-of-war, yielding for solos and dramatic effect, but not once do they fall completely silent. When one instrument shines, the other two provide a support system to buoy it along. Their style evokes 20th century composers such as Stravinsky and Messiaen, as well as contemporary jazz musicians; a hint of Brubeck can be heard from time to time as well. 

Vivid begins with “Prelude,” a kind of amuse-bouche that does a good job of introducing the trio’s sound, letting them stretch their musical muscles. Arthur demonstrates his penchant for syncopation and time signature shifts early on in this short track, which features a hypnotic piano melody. On “DSFCA,” a frantic piano shoots out of the gate before the drums and bass kick in to send the track into a frenzy. Constantly shifting intervals, dynamics, and tempo keep the listener on their toes before the track cools down, the dynamics becoming subdued and steady rhythms taking hold.

Rolling chords introduce “Joy,” blossoming nicely with the addition of the bass being played with a bow, instead of Cohn’s usual plucking style. Maillet’s drums are added slowly, entering the flow of the rhythm seamlessly to provide a nice contrast with Cohn’s bass. Arthur’s piano then takes over, with the bass and drums now only acting as accents. While the melodies are rather repetitive, the differences in tempo and call-and-response pattern that emerges keep the track pleasant and the listener engaged. Arthur arranges the track to fall into dissonance before inserting a neat, circular resolution: the return of the initial piano melody, now a little more harried.

On “Mars Text,” bass and a higher piano melody take the spotlight, supplemented by drums and a faster piano melody, played at a lower register. The track has a bittersweet quality to it, with each instrument alternately fading in and out, each in its own world. As the track picks up, the melodies of piano, bass, and drum become intertwined, building on one another; this cyclical track is one of Arthur’s most involved compositions, and the trio perform it expertly.

The Daniel Arthur Trio also cover the greats on Vivid, paying homage to Shostakovich and Messiaen in additional tracks. While their overall performance style still has an air of youthful formality, the raw talent exhibited by these musicians cannot be denied, and this author can only hope they will continue to showcase their prowess as they carve a name for themselves in the jazz world.

Album released: July 7, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

a2445358277_10

Album Review: Rocket – (Sandy) Alex G

a2445358277_10

(Sandy) Alex G is more a storyteller than an autobiographer. Philadelphia’s Alex Giannascoli has released his much-anticipated sixth full-length release, Rocket, and it is as murky and expansive as ever. A lo-fi prodigy, Giannascoli has taken this opportunity to stray from terra firma and embark on an exploratory foray into the “country et al.” genre. His incorporation of banjos, sleepy swing rhythms, and Molly Bermer’s wistful violin have brought him into a new territory entirely. Accordingly, he takes his time to explore, meandering from Americana (“Bobby”) to noise (“Brick”), auto-tuned grunge-pop (“Sportstar”) to the cocktail free-form jazz (“Guilty”).

In Giannascoli’s opinion, the more esoteric a lyric, the more powerful the song. He’s of the mindset that once lyrics are explained, they are stripped of power and meaning; in his eyes, it is better for the listener to develop their own individual interpretation of his music. In addition, Giannascoli cheekily refrains from admitting which tracks are autobiographical in interviews, though he has admitted that he is prone to write multiple character narratives (cf: “Bobby”) that span multiple albums.

To the untrained eye, Rocket may seem cobbled together, a hasty amalgamation of different genres. Below the surface, however, Giannascoli has subtly created a tryptic of genres: his foray into country, experimentation in grunge and noise, and development of a more rounded lo-fi sound. Rocket acts as a foggy window into his writing process, helping his fans to understand that often, the musician’s process involves the willingness to transcend traditional genre labels. On this album, Giannascoli delights in keeping listeners on their toes as he moves among a myriad of sounds and genres.

Rocket begins with a classic Americana track, “Poison Root.” Here Giannascoli incorporates the Sufjan effect, with muffled, nearly incoherent vocals over a pleasantly twangy banjo and quick-paced, layered instrumentals. A gorgeous crescendo signals a build in intensity, with the addition of a hurried violin, before the track ends abruptly. On “Country,” he cleverly masks dark lyrics with the use of a drum brush, smooth jazz instrumentals, and sing-song vocals.

“Brick” is a harsh contrast to the preceding tracks, providing an immediate sense of tension and urgency. Dissonant, competing guitars fight for melodic attention before the track explodes into heavy drums, distortion, and bass; Giannascoli’s droning shout fights to float over the melée. The track is violent, aggressive, and short, ending as abruptly as it begins, but is one of the most intriguing tracks on Rocket; if Giannascoli ever wanted to transition into noise rock, he has an in. In a delightful contrast, “Sportstar” begins with a wistful piano melody before heavily-produced guitars begin to fade in and out, with auto-tune providing an interesting contrast. When Giannascoli drops it, the lyrics are much more impactful: “I play how I wanna play, I say what I wanna say.” A subtle “Nikes” reference sends a wink towards Giannascoli’s involvement in Frank Ocean’s 2016 Blonde.

The titular track is the apex of the third theme of Rocket, and shines as the singular instrumental track on the album. A mix of Americana and lo-fi, the warm melodies of banjo and piano act as a bittersweet maypole. “Powerful Man” follows directly after, and signals a return to (Sandy) Alex G’s more classic sound. Giannascoli’s vocals enter at the forefront after an introduction of finger picking, but they are slowly and methodically overtaken by the building up of piano, violin, and drums until only the instrumentals remain; a signal that this carefully crafted story arc is coming to a close.

Album released: May 19, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam

 

17834083_1683230611687423_6525160691465892576_o

Album Review: There’s A Better Something – Emmett McCleary

17834083_1683230611687423_6525160691465892576_oEmmett McCleary is of the opinion that it’s much easier to write a sad song than a happy one, though you might not catch it right away in his intricate, snappy tracks. The Newton native, finishing his university career here at McGill University, self-released his debut LP There’s A Better Something last month, just in time for Montreal to wake up from its eight-month long winter hibernation. The ten-track release, only 30 minutes in length, is a gentle breath of fresh air, and celebrates the return of the summery, sun-soaked 60s and 70s.

McCleary more than proves his worth as a burgeoning professional musician, mixing the retro musical themes of his youth with the jangle pop overtaking Montreal’s Mile End. While he draws heavily from influences like Joni Mitchell, the Beach Boys, and Elliott Smith, McCleary adds a personal touch to his music; in particular, There’s A Better Something addresses depression and trying to find new ways to stay positive while navigating through school, love, and the dreaded Montreal winters (despite being a born-and-bred East Coast boy, he is adamant about moving to warmer climes after graduation).

There’s A Better Something, McCleary’s first full-length album since changing his moniker from his high school project Easter, demonstrates a successful shift from a DIY-attitude to one of collaboration. Thanks to his father’s experience in the recording business, the album boasts a crisp, full-bodied production quality; a step up from the more homey sound of Easter’s discography. Additionally, the shift allowed McCleary to lean on the creative resources of Boston and Montreal’s fine music communities, rather than playing all the instruments himself. As a result, the instrumentals are more adventurous, tinkering with pedal steel guitar and experimenting with some different genres.

The album opens with the the sweet, breezy “Candy,” an airy track that is anchored by the subtle theme of social anxiety present in the lyrics. The female background vocals, provided by childhood friends of McCleary, add another layer to a fairly straightforward track. “She’s Coming Home” provides a subtle electronic introduction before launching into a gorgeous ballad; this track is easily McCleary’s boldest piece of work, both musically and vocally. He momentarily leaves his breathy falsetto behind, adopting instead a gruffness that serves him very well.

“Bright and Blue” moves like a country slow dance in the early morning, wistful and intimate. The echo and pleading chorus serve as a window into McCleary’s darker heart.  “Twine and Straw” shows his edgier side, guitars smoldering underneath almost-shouted lyrics. Discordant melodies sprinkled here and there provide a nice contrast to the otherwise pleasant musical atmosphere on the rest of the album. There’s A Better Something ends with the title track, a short acoustic number that brings home the sweet melancholy that McCleary does so well.

In fact, the entire album is a smooth navigation between raw emotions and catchy hooks. McCleary is wholesome, but never disingenuous. He advertises “earnest music for earnest people,” and what you hear is what you get: retro pop for the tender heart.

Album released: May 12, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

13458719_1629894047328539_3414254609416577598_o

Artist Profile: Quivers

13458719_1629894047328539_3414254609416577598_o

It took them about 23 hours to reach North America from Melbourne, but for a week now Quivers has been taking Canada by storm with classic Aussie optimism: “we’re just happy to be on the other side of the world.” I was lucky enough to catch them on one of their off days in Toronto, where I chatted with Sam Nicholson, Mike Panton, and Angela Schilling from their hotel room. Quivers initially began when frontman Sam revisited his love for writing music after taking a hiatus in China. His older brother Tom passed away in a free-diving accident some years ago, and beginning to record again, for him, was a kind of catharsis: a way to celebrate life by just “making music with your mates.” Though originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Sam and Mike packed up and moved to Melbourne to explore the blooming music scene there, adding Ange, Jo, and Rohan on the way.

Despite the move, Quivers’ sound is still very much rooted in Tasmanian culture. Their album, We’ll Go Riding On The Hearses, was recorded on Mount Wellington in Hobart; the group rented out the Fern Tree Community Center and, in the middle of a hailstorm, hunkered down for two days and recorded. The themes of the album reference a lot of Tasmanian life and, according to Ange, is infused with a certain “Australiana sound.” We’ll Go Riding on the Hearses was made for road trips down wide-open highways, much like the Midlands Highway that runs through Australia; it was there that Sam saw a pale green hearse, “almost exactly like the one from [HBO’s] Six Feet Under.” While he didn’t end up buying it, the vehicle became a central theme and inspiration for the cheeky album title, which is a pun on Daryl Braithwaite’s 1991 hit “The Horses.”

Blending the macabre and the sanguine is an integral part of Sam’s approach to his music; the album certainly deals with grief and loss, but in an indirect way that views these indescribably difficult topics through the lens of reflection and nostalgia. Sam’s ultimate goal is for his songs to be relatable, even while they deal with incredibly personal aspects of his life. For him, it’s about adding a dash of fiction to the fact: “songwriters write a better version of what actually happened… [there are] certain things I’m afraid to write about in a too-honest way.” This sparked an interesting discussion about the differences of songwriting; all other members of Quivers are also involved in other projects, so opinions flowed freely. Ange admitted that she tended to write “very specific songs, lyrically,” adding that “I don’t mind if [the songs] aren’t accessible because I try so hard to make it just for me.” In her opinion, artists have to learn to overcome the barrier of self-consciousness in order to really connect with the audience. The guys nodded enthusiastically in agreement.

In discussing vulnerability in songwriting and performance, it is clear that Quivers is more of a conglomerate of individual artists, who all unite together over a common love: music. While they technically play jangle-pop, the group adores genres that “would never come across in Quivers,” such as R&B and Motown (I heartily approved). After collectively listing what could be considered the entire anthology of 70’s soul and 80’s guitar rock as influences (“Paul Kelly is our poet”), Mike added that “we’ve all kinda done a few things before… you pick up things as you go from other bands; I’m influenced so much by the other people I’ve played with.” This more personal aspect comes through when Quivers plays live; Sam admitted that each song has about five alternate endings, a kind of “choose your own adventure” approach to performance. He added that the point of the band is not to be perfectionists, but rather to have a good time in the hopes that the audience will, too.

When I asked them what was in store, Sam divulged that they were working with Dave Mudie, drummer for Courtney Barnett, on a possible EP or album. For now though, the world will have to wait; Quivers plans to do an official release of We’ll Go Riding on the Hearses later this year on bandmate Jo’s record label, Hotel Motel Records. As for their first North American tour, the group had plenty of good things to say about Canada and were quite excited to end on the east coast. Their one question? “I guess… where are the best bagels in Montreal at 3am?”

Look for Quivers in the 514 at Le Cagibi tomorrow; it’ll be a wild ride.

by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

CS638275-01A-MED

Album Review: Swear I’m Good At This – Diet Cig

CS638275-01A-MEDAt the time of Diet Cig’s conception circa 2014, front-woman Alex Luciano had barely picked up a guitar. Now, the 21-year-old is rocking her way across the USA with her trusty drummer sidekick, Noah Bowman. The pair are an inseparable, insurmountable duo; it only took one meeting at a show of Bowman’s in New Paltz, New York to bind them in a friendship and partnership that has only grown since.

Bowman sets the fast, frenetic pace of these pure pop-punk tracks, while Luciano’s jagged guitar serves as an incendiary device as her voice ricochets from softly sweet to emotionally unhindered. She is at once an open book, wearing her heart on her sleeve, and a firecracker poised to go off at anyone (namely, any boy) who gets in her way. Lyrically, Luciano has a no-tolerance policy for BS and spares no feelings. She has a knack for wry, tongue-in-cheek observation, and does not shy from singing her inner demons away. With this attitude and an EP under their belt, Diet Cig has created their first LP Swear I’m Good At This.

The album features old habits and new growth: while riotously fun tracks still abound, quieter, more contemplative tracks such as the short number “Apricot” have been introduced, and the production quality has veered slightly from the DIY-feel that accompanied Diet Cig’s EP, Over Easy. Never fear though, Luciano still maintains her blunt, in-your-face attitude, dancing all over your brain with the ferocity and precociousness of an angsty færie. She is all at once dismissive, self-conscious, confident, and confidential, running the full gamut of emotions felt by young women everywhere, at any time.

The opening lyrics of “Sixteen” are enough to convince anyone of that point. Luciano sings plainly of the awkward sex had with a boy who bears the same name; this opening track acts as a shock-and-awe confessional and grips you right from the get-go. “Link in Bio” is an upbeat banger, with Luciano holding up both middle fingers to her demons; “don’t tell me to calm down” is spoken slowly, pointedly, before the track rips open with a melée of drums and electric guitar. “Barf Day” demonstrates Luciano’s innate knack for lyrical honesty, and the bridge of “I know you’re sorry, I just don’t care” basically summarizes Diet Cig’s essence in a succinct, biting sentence. The echoing chorus towards the end of the track adds a nice, unexpected complexity to an otherwise musically-straightforward track.

On “Blob Zombie,” Bowman has his chance to shine, and he runs with it; his percussion sets a galloping, breathless pace, and Luciano matches it with strong lyrics: “I wanna be the best one at this / But I don’t wanna get out of bed” is the very mantra that runs through every girl’s mind. “Tummy Ache” sends a similar message, with Luciano discussing the trials and tribulations of being a girl on the punk scene. Towards the end of the track, the vocals split and dissolve into multiple lines, all echoing and looping over one another, as if mirroring the internal commentary that many women deal with in their daily lives. Luciano acts as a voice-piece for countless young girls, but the defining quality that makes her music so relatable is that she is also standing right beside them, shouting into that selfsame megaphone.

Album released: April 7, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

a4008694957_10

Album Review: Field of Love – Mozart’s Sister

a4008694957_10Montreal has produced many a talented musician in its time, and an equally talented number have come seeking inspiration within the 514. Mozart’s Sister, the solo project of Caila Thompson-Hannant, is no exception. Thompson-Hannant has been on the Montreal music scene for quite a few years at this point, featuring in notable bands such as Shapes & Sizes, Miracle Fortress, and Think About Life before embarking on Mozart’s Sister with her 2011 Dear Fear release. Originally from British Columbia, Thompson-Hannant attributes the love for her musical style to her uncle, who by all accounts sounds like the coolest guy ever: her tutelage included the likes of Bjork, Air, and rave pop legends Vengaboys.

Field of Love is a vibrant jungle of synth and vocal harmonies with an overarching theme of wide-eyed, pleasurable love; the album comes just in time to usher in Montreal’s great thaw. The production is high quality, but don’t let the “pop” label deter you: Thompson-Hannant’s arrangements are saturated with an exploratory quality that drips with saccharine ingenuity. While the instrumentals pop and sizzle with an energy akin to rebirth, the real treasure lies in Thompson-Hannant’s voice. Whether a track simmers or soars, her voice rises above the melée with clarity and confidence.

Field of Love opens with “Eternally Girl,” which crackles with energy right from the beginning; it’s an easy, bright introduction to the album that delivers bold dance beats and stratospheric falsetto. “Angel” proves to be the most complex track on the album, mostly due to Thompson-Hannant’s chameleonic vocals; her voice is a swirling mix of whine, whisper, croon, and moan. The track begins with an a cappella seraphic chorus  before bare, syncopated synth trickles in, as if Thompson-Hannant is floating down on a giant musical soap bubble. Her use of crescendo and silence is captivating, drawing the listener in to the push-pull rhythm of the synth beats.

“Bump” follows next, a subtle rollercoaster of a track. Dissonant vocals add a lovely, funky fuzz to the dance-club beats, and the whole experience is at the very least guaranteed to get your feet tapping and your head bopping. “My Heart is Wild” is nicely layered, with handclaps interspersed with an almost tropical-house beat and looped vocals; the track literally unfolds around the listener and is certainly a journey worth undertaking.

Album released February 21, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam