Author Archives: librarian

Concert Review: The Wombats @ Théâtre Corona

It may seem rather typical that the first time I went to a concert was to see a band that I adored in middle school. What makes my experience different, I suppose, is that I attended my first concert at age 20, last weekend, as the Wombats took the stage at Theatre Corona.

The Wombats of my adolescence were really just one album: 2007’s A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation. Their sound on this album is distinctly whimsical and pop-flavored, with a punky rhythm section backing up the singsong Scouse and guitar of Matthew Murphy. I think you will agree if you give this album a listen, which you should. At the same time though, the songs feature themes of anxiety, loneliness and dysfunctional romance, almost without exception. The song that stands out most immediately from this album is the Wombats’ best known single, “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”. This song is infectiously catchy, and embraces Murphy’s pouty British voice to the utmost. In my school days, this was my preferred anthem while my peers sung along to “I Gotta Feeling”, “Umbrella” or “Replay”, by the Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna and Iyaz respectively. Looking back however, I feel that some of the other songs on the album, especially those that slow down the pace from “Joy Division”, are their best work, particularly “Party in the Woods (Where’s Laura)”, “Patricia the Stripper” and “Here Comes the Anxiety”. In retrospect, the angst of the songs can get to be a bit whiny from time to time. Folks who prefer rap or metal exclusively may find it to be too light, but if you like pop music, this may be for you.

I had some concerns, attending a concert. I didn’t really like the idea of mindless, strobe-lit hordes pushing each other around, based on my unpleasant and infrequent visits to McGill frosh events and various nightclubs. I also don’t like it when music is super loud, just in general and especially recently because I have been having some problems with my ears, so the volume was certainly a worry. The other thing is that, I really like recorded music, with all its complexity and maximum of quality. I’ve never really seen the appeal of live music, my thought process being, “This can only be worse. It cannot be better than the versions they perfected in the studio”. Also, I had heard horror stories from all over about musicians taking the stage hours late, and of those who put on awful or insulting shows.

I was justified in being concerned about most of these things. The Wombats played super loud, which at first, I actually enjoyed. My ears were getting numb by the end of the setlist though. The crowd, although manifesting in large numbers within the excellent Corona venue, didn’t really bother me too much, it wasn’t that crazy

The Wombats were not worse in live performance than on their records, and they put on a fantastic show. It was certainly, however, a very different music than what I knew of them, and it was a pleasant surprise for me. They dove after each sunshine-pop melody with the intensity characteristic of arena rock and punk music, with the rhythm section pounding through with the volume it deserved. Murphy’s guitar parts were quite the highlight for me, as he wove high-pitched chords into alternate melodies between his singing. To be honest, the only songs I recognized were “Patricia the Stripper”, “Moving to New York” and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”. Most of the songs were from their new release from February of this year, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Two of my favorites are “Cheetah Tongue” and the lead single “Lemon to a Knife Fight”.

My direction now is clear: start listening to The Wombats again, and continue to attend concerts.

~ Review by Will Anderson

Album Review: Tim Hecker – Konoyo

Konoyo by Tim Hecker, Kranky

Konoyo by Tim Hecker, Kranky

With yet another midterm season upon us, it is sometimes easy to neglect the notion that professors lead careers outside of their lectures, and Tim Hecker is no exception.  The Vancouver-born McGill professor began his music career as a DJ and techno producer, the influence and experience of which resonate thoroughly across his September 28th release Konoyo.  For his 9th studio album, Konoyo shows concise stylistic refinement, employing synthesizers and software that emphasizes the importance of the samples Hecker is isolating and manipulating.  The foundation of the musicality and inspiration of this album stems from a form of Japanese imperial court music known as Gagaku; an intense ‘drone-style’  produced by the incorporation of instruments such as bamboo mouth organs and double-reeded aerophones.

I want to preface this review by admitting that I am fairly unacquainted with the electronic genre, and Konoyo was my first introduction to this distinct style of experimental minimalism.  While I don’t have precedent albums to compare this one to (including Hecker’s previous works), I can say that my first impression of this album was overwhelmingly positive.  Released by Chicago-based label Kranky, the tracks intertwine with each other perfectly, keeping the listener in a suspended tranquility deprived of jarring breaks as the album completes its hour-long play.

Konoyo opens with “This life”. Comprised of only jarring synth tones until approximately 30 seconds in, this track sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album.  It is, tonally speaking, clinically cold and through immense tension the songs create a sense of apprehension.  The sounds emulate waves as the tension pulses through its eight-minute course and demands the full attention of the listener.  On an interesting note, while it obviously connects seamlessly to the following track “In Death Valley”, it also pairs perfectly with the closing track “Across To Anoyo”.  At the 15 minute mark, the song’s intensity ties together the elements of the first six , with a significant call back to the first track as the music fades out into more ambient.


Moreover, t
he length of these pieces gives Konoyo a highly introspective quality.  The meditative nature of Hecker’s style makes this unavoidable, regardless of whether the listener is closely analyzing and dissecting the music or just throwing it on as background music while studying.  This is an amazingly versatile album, that can be perceived as complex or as simple as the listener wants, and serves as a virtuous introduction to this genre.

~Review by Madison Palmer, Noise Architect

 

 

Album Review: Mitski – Be The Cowboy

mitski album cover

Montreal’s terrace season is starting to wind down.  Leaves are slowly oranging, and the infamous humidity that has been hanging in the air over the past couple of months is starting to crisp up.  The encroaching post add-drop lethargy is hanging over students, and they may be starting looking for the perfect soundtrack to accompany the upcoming gloomy fall days.  Thankfully, Mitski’s new album can provide an end to that search.

Be the Cowboy is the Japanese-American artist’s 5th studio album, and is truly a gem sent down from the bedroom pop gods.  Tying together atmospheric lyrics with relatively grungy rock guitar riffs, the soon-to-be 29 year old has been hailed as “the new vanguard of indie rock” and this new album —released August 17th— lives solidly up to this reputation, however it is at its core a very standard sounding indie album.

The standout songs are, obviously, incredible.  The opening track, “Geyser” is, in my opinion, one of the strongest songs on the entire album.  It establishes itself with a haunting synth that slowly builds up to a climax about 1 minute and 20 seconds in.  The atmosphere of the song creates a feeling of bright optimism. This atmosphere is complemented amazingly in the closing track “Two Slow Dancers”, a song that not only saved the album for me, but also gave me a glimpse at what I wanted the album so badly to be.  The song is contemplative, nostalgic, and just as lyrically and sonically powerful as the opener.

Everything in between these two are all —lyrically speaking— cookie cutter indie songs. Tracks such as “Old Friend”, “Nobody”, and “Blue Light” could easily have been left off the album and it would have no significant effect on the listener’s experience.  The songs that stood out the most were the ones with actual unique qualities. “Remember My Name” and “A Horse Named Cold Water” are both incredible examples of this diversity; the former embodying the same college band feeling as the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack and the latter, opposingly, showcases stripped down vocals over a few piano chords.  Even “Me and My Husband” (far from my favourite song on the album) is a jarring shift from the songs it sits between, adopting a noticeably more 2011 mainstream indie pop sound.

In spite of these qualms, Be the Cowboy is unquestionably a good album.  All the songs blend together beautifully, and its length of 32 minutes makes it the perfect soundtrack to your fall semester study sessions to help ease you into the fast approaching midterm season and even faster approaching winter.

Review By Madison Palmer

Concert Review: Bat Fangs, Hop Along @ le Belmont

From the band’s very first address to the audience, it was clear the Hop Along show at the Belmont last Saturday would be a relaxed evening with hearts warmed by great music and charming and humorous band members. Throughout the evening, banter between spectators and band would blur the lines between the two for an intimate show appropriate of the Belmont’s shoebox performance space.

Before this, Washington, D.C.-based Bat Fangs warmed up the stage, announcing their provenance via the bassist’s Capitals tee and a brief introduction from singer/guitarist Betsy Wright. Wright and drummer Laura King formed the band after bouncing around a few other groups, and their experience oozed out of their ripping guitar riffs and flourishing tom hits. As if their stage presence didn’t scream of enough rock n’ roll cool, they introduced the song “Bad Astrology” by yelling out, “was anyone here just born bad?” It took a moment for the audience to respond, probably because they first assumed it was a rhetorical question meant for the band members themselves. The answer was a clear “yes.”

Hop Along took advantage of the sizzle left by Bat Fangs’ riot grrrl torch and immediately launched into the lead single, “How Simple,” off their album released earlier this year, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Onlookers lining the front of the stage and pockets of them throughout the venue bounced and hooted along to the contagious melody of the refrain, reflecting the more optimistic half of the lyrics, “Don’t worry we will both find out/ Just not together.” The set that followed would include most of the 9 songs from the short-but-sweet track-list. Origin-indicating shirts seemed to be a motif of the night, with a member wearing a Modern Baseball shirt, this time referencing a fellow band from Philly.

Front-woman Frances Quinlan broke the ice by thanking the crowd for coming out on their “only Saturday of the week,” adding that, “it’s just bazonkers.” Over the chuckling crowd-members, she ironically added, “yeah, I’m a wordsmith.” Though meant in jest, one of the band’s greatest strengths is Quinlan’s songwriting. She excels in stringing together monologues that put the listener in the shoes of characters imagined, observed, or of her own in ways that are still deeply relatable even through layers of idiosyncratic imagery.

The band then took a brief detour through their past discography with “Kids On The Boardwalk” from 2012’s Get Disowned and “Texas Funeral” from 2015’s Painted Shut. By the time the irresistible rhythm guitar of newer song “Somewhere A Judge” rung out, anyone in attendance not previously unabashedly crying out memorized lyrics would have understood their excitement. Indeed, successfully singing along with Quinlan and coming at all close to replicating the often unexpected turns in melody and her many vocal inflections should definitely be considered a feat. Quinlan’s voice has the ability to take on as many identities as the diverse assortment of those described in her lyrical narratives, from understated whisper to disinhibited howl and somehow, in combination of both, a throaty yelp full of simultaneous force and restraint.

“What’s the Montreal version of a Waffle House?,” Quinlan asked, foreshadowing the next song, “I Saw My Twin,” about Quinlan spotting her doppelgänger in a West Virginia location of the restaurant chain (the crowd’s decided equivalent: “La Belle Province”). Afterwards, Mark Quinlan, the band’s drummer and Frances’ brother, lightened the topic of lives that could have been and the thin veil of celebrity by joking, “just about 420 songs left.” In response, a member of an enthusiastic group in the crowd that had previously screamed out an open invitation to their address after the show, yelled in ecstatic recognition, “the weed number!” The tone of the show became serious yet again as Frances started off “Look of Love” as she does in the recording, with just her voice and her acoustic guitar. Lyrics containing the album’s title wove a story about a guilt-ridden childhood experience in which her wish that a disliked neighborhood dog would stop barking at her is fulfilled by a car accident. Though Quinlan had warned the audience of melancholy subject matter just prior, the song ended in an uplifting reflection on the beauty in life after death upon returning the dog’s grave and seeing birds feeding on the garden over it.

The thematic intensity continued, this time taking a turn for the biblical with “What the Writer Meant” and “Not Abel.” Hop Along’s latest work differs from their previous efforts with the addition of strings either bowed or plucked in the background of most of the album, including these songs. Understandably, this feature was not translated to their tour, but the absence of the arrangements was barely noticeable with Quinlan’s poignant lyricisms and the band’s camaraderie that both made their playing seamless and the audience feeling like a part of the family.

With this atmosphere in mind, I almost expected Hop Along to make light of the traditional encore formalities and perhaps continue straight into the end of their set after a wisecrack about not leaving the stage. Though in the end they went through the motions, they promised to return as soon as possible after treating fans to old favorites “Well-Dressed,” “The Knock,” and “Tibetan Pop Stars.” I have no doubt they’ll have an even greater troupe of loyal music lovers waiting when that happens.

~review by Dylan Lai

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 1.44.07 PM

Concert Review: The Marias @ L’Astral

It isn’t often that an opening act warrants attention apart from who they are supporting, but this was certainly the case when The Marías took the stage before Albert Hammond Jr. this past Monday, April 2nd. Nostalgia is one of the immediate reactions to the band’s music and image: the cover photo for their debut EP Superclean, Vol. I is front-woman María’s legs, highlighted by flash as they rest upon red velvet-upholstered theatre seats faded with the dim haze of Hollywood’s golden years. Their music draws from old-school funk, soul and psychedelia, but instead of wallowing in all this 60’s/70’s reminiscence as they easily could, the group coats their tunes in a distinctly modern sheen with María’s sometimes-Spanish lyrics and drummer Josh Conway’s sleek production.

Lead vocalist María does indeed have a last name, but leaves it offstage as many icons have before her. Any aloofness this move might imply, however, was immediately eliminated by her humble stage presence and an outfit that could have been as much her everyday style as performance-ready getup. Matching the colours of the EP album artwork, the flowing white fabric of satin palazzo pants breezily followed María’s rhythmic swaying, paired with a matching bandeau concealed by a scarlet matador-inspired jacket. The rest of the band loosely coordinated their outfits to match this palette, with tones of red, black, and white tying up their aesthetic into one clean, focused package.

The pulsing beat of “I Like It,” the first song of the set, helped introduced the crowd to the band’s polished sound. María traded and shared vocals with Conway, their soothing croons blending for an effect reminiscent of a Serge Gainsbourg duet. After this warm-up, María’s vocals came into focus, bringing in the chilled-out groove of “Only in My Dreams.” The synchronized strums of (Canadian-born) Josh Conway’s bass foundation and Jesse Perlman’s glossy guitar overcoat combined to access the space between wakefulness and dreaming, a strange balance which could be the band’s brand.

The synth squiggles in the background of “Superclean,” contributed by Edward James, were followed by an affectionate version of J-Lo’s “Cariño” and an unreleased song: “Ruthless.” The second of these was accompanied by a surprise appearance from Busty & the Bass trumpeter Scott Bevins, who added a crowd-pleasing jazzy texture that would return later during “Basta Ya.” Before his reappearance, the band kept up the brass-fueled energy by playing personal favourite “I Don’t Know You.” Conway propelled the tune forward with a funky bass-line tempered by straightforward chords from Perlman to again achieve the group’s soporific-yet-snappy signature. Before their closing song, The Marías paid tribute to their influences with another cover, this time of Teena Marie’s “Lovergirl,” keeping all the soul of the original while replacing some of its 80’s glare with their own sound.

After kindly giving Albert Hammond Jr. a second shoutout, María referenced her Puerto-Rican roots one last time with “Déjate Llevar” for a more up-tempo finish. Though The Marías make great use of guitar, they are not initially an intuitive complement to Albert Hammond Jr.’s frenetic riff-laden energy. Watching their set, however, it became clear that their appeal is a subtler and no less remarkable kind of gravity, sizzling just below the surface like their deceptively catchy music.

While addressing the audience at one point during the set, María confessed to the audience that it was the band’s first time in Canada. It might already be clear by virtue of their role supporting a former Stroke, but something about the Marías’ quiet confidence and refined image tells me that it won’t be their last.

~review by Dylan Lai

Concert Review: Hanna Benn, Sinkane & Son Lux @ Theatre Fairmount

Paradoxically, one of the best ways to characterize the music of Son Lux is that it’s difficult to do so. The genre-resistant group was originally the solo project of Ryan Lott until 2015, and his proclivity for out-of-the-box musical exploration has drawn comparison to (and a collaborative project with) Sufjan Stevens. Personally, his unique vocal timbre is reminiscent of James Blake. This affinity for the unusual also apparently extends to Son Lux’s choice of touring partners, as openers Sinkane and Hanna Benn blended their own selection of sounds to give audience members a taste of what was to come. As I entered the Fairmount this past Monday to catch the end of Hanna Benn, the already substantial crowd was a clear indicator of the magnetic power and intrigue of ambiguity.

Benn’s crystalline vocals, which also made an appearance on Son Lux’s 2016 EP Stranger Forms, floated over compositions influenced by her eclectic classical and gospel training. Sinkane, up next, mixed the music of his Sudanese roots with jazz and funk elements for an energizing set that showcased the talents of the group’s members. The guitarist got a few improvisational solos in, and the harmonies of keyboardist/vocalist Elenna Canlas backing up frontman Ahmed Gallab’s soothing tenor transformed to lead vocals for the majority of the band’s final two songs.

Before long, Lott’s faux-hawk appeared under the dim stage lights. He was joined by guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, and the trio introduced themselves with the first few chilling verses of “Forty Screams,” then the opening song from their latest album Brighter Wounds. The project is the second to include Bhatia and Chang as official band members after 2015’s Bones, though the group has been performing together since 2013. Though the most recent album is sonically more accessible than the last, Lott hasn’t lightened his hand lyrically. It’s an intimate reflection on his alternating hope and uncertainty for the future spurred by the recent birth of his son. His trembling falsetto, sounding always as if he might be moments away from tears, lends itself to expressing the raw content of the music. Varyingly passed through filters and paired with his eclectic production, full of instrumental samples and effects with a distorted yet organic feel, it can be hard to be sure he’s emitting the sounds you’re hearing or if they originate from some otherworldly source.

Though Son Lux is Lott’s brainchild, the group’s writing process is reportedly highly collaborative. Accordingly, the musicianship of the of the other members was given ample time to shine, with the band adapting their recordings for the stage to highlight their skill. Bhatia had a few solos and covered string parts by adjusting his tone, and for “Stolen,” Chang broke into an extended drum break to finish off the song. Building off this energy, Lott later showcased his usually restrained voice by belting out the resplendent chorus of “Dream State.” Digging into the keyboard unconventionally angled away from him, it seemed like he was holding on against a musical fervor that would otherwise sweep him away.

As he approached the end of the set, Lott joked with the audience, playing on the traditional faux exit and encore by telling the audience, “the song after this is our last…but not really. Just pretend it is.” The crowd happily obeyed, keeping energy levels high. When the band got to their “last song,” they requested that the people in the venue participate, instructing the crowd and cueing them in to sing a melody adapted from one of the string parts in the song. The tune in question, “All Directions,” was befitting of the impromptu choir, since a similar effect is applied in the final refrain of the recording. The lyrics, “And weren’t we the beautiful ones/I promise we were,” also stir up a collective impression of loss and redemption that was easy to feel part of.

As promised, Son Lux exited the stage before re-entering and delivering a smoldering performance of “Aquatic.” To spark things up again for their (actual) last song, they treated everyone to their most popular tune, “Lost it to Trying,” getting the audience to join in once again – this time without any request needed.

~ review by Dylan Lai

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS ::: FEBRUARY 27th, 2018

Here are the Charts for this week….a bit late this week since I’m on the road in €

best

Alex

CKUT TOP 30 FOR FEB 27th, 2018

1.  ought – room inside the world – royal mountain *
2.  petra glint – the trip – vibe over method
3.  cadence weapon – s/t – eone
4.  dominique fils-aimé – nameless – ensoul
5.  youmna saba – arb’en – tunefork
6.  yoshimio / susie ibarra / robert aiki aubrey lowe – flower of sulfer – thrill jockey
7. moth cock -1-100 at the speed of…. – hausu mountain
8.  holzkopf – hause of sun – self released
9.  various – youth international party 50th anniversary – youth international party
10   nightmares on wax – shape the future – warp
11.  saukratese – season 2 –  CC
12. political ritual – s/t – ambiance magnétique CC*
13. wooing – daydream b/w time machine – ba da bing
14. the bridge – overdrive – rock/jazz – party – guersson
15. lea bertucci – metal aether – NNA
16. lachane – s/t – holodeck
17. effrim menuck – pissing stars – constellation CC*
18. u.s. girls – a poem unlimited – 4AD
19. moth cock -1-100 at the speed of…. – hausu mountain
20. profligate – somewhere else – wharf cat
21. the extract – dream song – self CC
22. station 17 – blick – bureau b
23. persuasion – quatermass ep – opal tapes
24. langley school music project – innocence & despair – bar/none
25. fischerspooner – sir – ultra
26. steff chura – messes – sadle creek
27. runaway brother – new pocket – tiny engines
28. wetware – automatic drawing – dais
29.  divide and dissolve – abomination – dero arcade
30. dabrye – three/three – ghostly international

ckut rpm – february 27, 2008
1.persuasion – quatermass ep – opal tapes
2.souns – aquamarine – souns.bandcamp.com CC
3.antenes – shifting zones – silent season
4.various – silk to dry the tears – 100% silk
5.peder mannerfelt – the 3d printed songbook – peder mannerfelt produktion
6.gene tellem – who says no – S.O.B.O – CC
7.memeshift – desert vibes – perfect location
8.jasen loveland – my medicine – acid camp
9.dimitri palikaris – exploring – ancient robot
10.
james n murray – city of the night – jacktone

ckut jazz – february 27, 2018

1. togetherness! – togetherness! – self cc
2.kaze – atody man – circum–libra
3.bobby previte  – rhapsody – rare noise
4.kate gentile – mannequins – skirl
5.jason robinson’s janus ensemble – resonant geographies – pfmentum
6.jean derome – resistances – ambiances magnétiques cc
7.irabagon / fielder / neufeld – in formation network – nuscope
8.rudd / victor / harris / filiano – embrace – rare noise
9.phillips / yoshizowa – oh my, those boys! – no business
10. anthony braxton – solo (victoriaville) 2017 – victo

ckut global – feb 20, 2018

1.afrika mamas – iphupho: a cappella from south africa – arcmusic
2.souljazz orchestra – under burning skies – strut CC
3.brooklyn raga massive – terry riley in c – northern spy
4.leila gobi – 2017 – clermont music
5.lemon bucket orchestra – if i had the strength – indoor recess
6. la misa negra – s/t – nam entertainment
7. brenda navarrete – mi mundo – alma
8. benji kaplan – chorando – big apple batucada
9.les filles de illighadad – eghass malan – sahel sounds
10. pasteur lappe – we, the people – africa seven

ckut beatbox – feb 27th
1. cadence weapon – s/t – one CC*
2.evidence – weather or not – rhymesayer
3.saukratese – season 2 –  CC
4.dabrye – three/three – ghostly international
5. swamp thing + ghettosocks – the octagon – droppin science  CC
6.fredy v – #ittakesavillage – self-released CC *
7.amp fiddler – amp dog knights – mahogani
8.v/a – cosmic melanin – 88 days of fortune CC
9.tshizimba – zero – self-released CC *
10.tachichi – chico’s 90s project (hand’solo) CC

Concert Review: Tess Roby, Girl Ray & Porches @ Theatre Plaza

Last Sunday, Theatre Plaza hosted an ode to DIY music with three distinct artists demonstrating synth-laden electronic, good ol’ rock, and a final act that combined the two. Local group Tess Roby opened the night with a simple setup: Tess on keys behind a mic, and her brother, Eliot, on guitar. Her warm, unadorned vocals (strikingly similar to the few studio recordings she has released) and pulsing synth cascades instilled a moody stillness, the only movement coming from the intermittent stomping of guitar pedals and the milling about of audience members. For her final song, “Ballad 5,” she requested that all the lights be turned blue, softening the ambiance one last time before taking her leave.

Girl Ray appeared shortly afterward with a classic guitar band outfit, adding just one touring member to their three-girl London-based act. Layering a modern lo-fi guitar sound over 70s folk/pop influences, they ramped up the energy along with the swelling crowd, even garnering cheers for a brief coordinated shimmy between guitarist/vocalist Poppy Hankin and bassist Sophie Moss.

With the clock approaching midnight, Porches frontman Aaron Maine took the stage with his back to a charged audience. After counting the band in with his swinging hips, he turned to deliver “Now the Water,” a song off his new album The House. A few tunes in, gentle head bobbing turned to jumping and jiving as the crowd got down to “Find Me,” a single off the album that juxtaposes lyrics about struggling with anxiety against dance-worthy beats. Energized by the response, Maine expressed his appreciation for everyone coming out by informing us he’d worn a “special shirt” for the occasion, indicating something apparently exceptional about his otherwise nondescript black tee. That shirt soon became a centerpiece for communicating the artist’s personality throughout the night, like his deadpan humor when he later clarified that we should actually ignore the shirt and “focus on the music,” a point he reinforced by briefly hiding behind it after lifting it up and over his face for a moment towards the end of his set.

Just as Maine’s dry sarcasm kept the audience guessing, The House navigates the ambiguous emotional spaces of post-breakup introspection, motivated by his recent split from Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos. Still, the music of Porches has never shied away from melancholia, and the 15-song set, split evenly between the most recent and previous (sophomore) album, felt like it could be part of a single work connected by its synth and heart-heavy sound.

Whether or not the awkwardness was deliberate, Maine seemed most comfortable mid-song, swaying along to the murky emotions simulated by the swirl of rhythm, melody, and lyrics that frequently invoke water as a metaphorical vehicle. One couldn’t help but feel the simultaneous solace and solitude in his music when, during the encore, the rest of the band crept, kneeling, into their spots while he began the heartfelt ballad “Country.” Before giving anyone time to reflect, the band closed the night by stripping back the synths and returning to their roots with “Headsgiving” off the debut album, lifting spirits with hearty guitars and drums. It was a perfect way to end. Lyrics like, “And in her eyes/I want to die/Before I die the sad kind,” contrast with those about giving head to encapsulate the sadness, sometimes whimsical, sometimes sincere, but never overly self-indulgent, that Maine likes to inhabit with his songwriting. This emotional gray area has a hazy relatability, even if not always readily accessible – though wallowing in Maine’s world for the better part of an hour certainly helps tap into this space. As I stepped outside to let the cold wind blow away any remaining gloom, I felt a sense of catharsis, and though unexpected, I was sure I wasn’t the only one.

~review by Dylan Lai

moses sumney album cover

Album Review: Aromanticism – Moses Sumney

Aromanticism is an album steeped in wonder, exploration, and beauty. After touring as Karen Oh’s guitar player, Ghana raised and Los Angeles based Moses Sumney introduces his own voice and vision. His affinity for poetry is clear: the singer’s first album showcases complex lyrics tackling difficult themes. It is a deeply personal and engaging exploration of not reciprocating love, navigating the world while questioning the value of romantic love, and the value of oneself.

In a world consumed by romance, the expectation that we strive to find a partner weighs on every member of society. Sumney explores the complexities of solitude in a unique way as he initiates a dialogue for people to question their own desires, and reject expectations forced on them. As Sumney put in an interview with Stereogum: “I just want people to know it’s OK to be alone. I’m not saying it’s easy or it’s too difficult, because it can be both. I’m saying it’s an option. It’s not a choice that has to last forever either. I just want people to explore being alone if they feel it suits them. There is more to life than who you’re with.”

“Man on the Moon (Reprise)” starts the album off with a choral arrangement that melts into the next track, “Don’t Bother Calling.” The song, as Sumney puts it, is “a preemptive fuck you.” It does not have the same dramatic quality as, say, “Plastic,” or “Lonely World,” which truly grab the listener and force them to introspect, but it does introduce many of the artistic elements present in the album; namely, the focus on Sumney’s voice which seamlessly transitions from low soulful vocals to reaching falsettos, and his experimentation with a wide range of instruments.

“Quarrel,” my favourite track on the album, is a complex, long song with many distinct parts. It is the apotheosis of a turmoil that has been building up from the start of the album, and sees the introduction of darker elements. A deep bass maintains the spine of the track, leaving room for vocals to have a playful relationship with the harp, and drawing attention to the intricate lyrics:

“Quoting this a quarrel

So immorally implies

We’re equal opponents

And we both antagonize”

The tension breaks suddenly to shift to a jazz-influenced bridge, replacing the harp with a synthesizer and keeping the same vocalizations so prominent in the track. The song ends with piano that fades and introduces the first spoken word track of the album, “Stoicism.”

“Lonely World” embodies the purpose of this record– an unapologetic exploration of what it means to be alone in a modern world.

“Lonely, lonely, lonely face under a veil

After all the laughter, emptiness prevails

Born into this world with no consent or choice

Lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely”

Sumney’s falsetto adds to the energy built up in this track, which breaks away abruptly to end off with a whisper.

The album slows down once again for its ninth track, “Doomed,” the lyrics of which beg to be reflected upon: “If lovelessness is godlessness, will you cast me to the wayside?” Sumney asks. “Doomed” is mirrored by “Indulge Me,” the most exposed track on the album and Sumney’s personal favourite. It’s a stripped down number with just a bit of synth, acoustic guitar, and vocals that range from small whispers to falsettos. The vocals are overlain so that it seems like Sumney is duetting with himself. “Indulge me,” Sumney asks of the listener.

Aromanticism is one of my favourite albums of the year, and for good reason. It analyzes uncharted themes and does so in a way that each track is raw, honest, and extremely different from the others. Moses Sumney provokes listeners to grapple with and understand the conflicting dynamics of solitude: both a relief and a challenge.

-review by Ash Rao

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Concert Review: Alvvays @ Club Soda

If you weren’t dancing and singing along at the Alvvays concert on Friday, you were missing the entire point.

The concert was a joyous event. The Toronto indie pop band played almost all of their songs from their latest album, Antisocialites, and some fan favourites from their first album. Fan favourites like “Archie, Marry Me” and “Not My Baby” caused loud singing from the audience, with the audience practically screaming lyrics back at the band. While most songs provided an opportunity to dance, the dancing reached its ecstatic peak during “My Type.”

The most powerful moment of crowd participation came during “Forget About Life.” I’m going to be honest: “Forget About Life” (the last song on Antisocialites) was not a song that stood out to me when listening at home. On Friday night at Club Soda, I got it. When Molly Rankin stood underneath the blue stage lights and sung “Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?” the whole crowd answered her back. This was the rallying call for everyone at the concert. During the chorus, the crowd almost over-powered Rankin’s voice as they sung back:

Did you want to forget about life?

Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?

Underneath this flickering light,

Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?

I have now been playing that song nonstop and can still feel the sense of oneness and camaraderie I felt in that crowd on Friday.

I have always enjoyed Alvvays music, but this concert made me fall in love with them. Their lyrics are easy to sing along to, all while expressing deep, emotional truths. Their melodies are catchy and easy to dance to. Their songs invite (and command) participation.

– Review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler