Tag Archives: Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

la louma album cover

Album Review: Let the World be Flooded Out – La Louma

I ingest albums very slowly. I find one or two songs I like from an album and listen to them on repeat for a week or so. Other songs from the album will slowly make their way into my repertoire, and if the album is good, I’m eventually listening to it in order on repeat. This is what happened to me with La Louma’s debut album Let the World be Flooded Out.

The opening track (and first single from the album) “The Decline of Nations” immediately intrigued me with its polished punk swagger. Then, I listened to “Just Wanna Love You” (the second single released). “Just Wanna Love You” features middle eastern influences, and is unlike any song I’ve heard recently. La Louma’s lyrics tell a story about the deep emotional unrest of being in a relationship that is no longer working, and her voice moves from clear vocals in the chorus to gritty vocal styling in the verses, with desperate pleas asking what she did wrong. I was utterly enthralled.

Next up for my ears to obsess over was “If We Don’t Now We Never Will.” This song is slower than the last two songs, but the mournful lyrics and vocal styling enchanted many of my fall walks. While slower in tempo, the song still posses the layers of instruments present throughout the whole album. This song really highlights La Louma’s ability to knit instruments together. Her layers of melodies and counter melodies are united in one large blanket of sound. The songs sound full, but never chaotic.

Perhaps this unity has to do with the fact that La Louma performed, record, produced, and mixed every song in her garage. The album was recorded over the course of three years, and during these three years, Lauren Ross (the talent behind La Louma) recorded 200 songs. She then distilled them into the ten song Let the World be Flooded Out. Growing up, Ross was a classical woodwind player, but the album displays Ross’ ability to play piccolo, flute, bassoon, french horn, electric guitar, electric bass, v-drums, and tambourine. And sing. Really, really well. “Brother True,” “Candy” and “Aaj Mausam Bada Beimann Har” showcase her woodwind classical training, and the combination of classical training and the unique recording process really make this album stand out.

Bear with me for the following digression. Ready? Ok. My younger sister loves Harry Styles. She was in middle school during the peak of the One Direction era, and during this time, the whole area around her bed was covered in One Direction posters (much to my displeasure). Needless to say, she was so excited when Harry Styles released his self-titled debut album this year. When it came out, I was in the depths of my disillusionment with academia, and I channelled this into a new-found appreciation for pop music as an anti-elitist statement. For the first time, I actually listened as my sister obsessed about Harry Styles. I listened to his album, and I really wanted to like it, as some kind of statement, or to support this male pop star who defends his female fans from the sexist eye-rolls music snobs might give them. But… I couldn’t get into it. I appreciated the 60s and 70s rock sensibility displayed, but there was something missing. After some thought, I narrowed it down to Styles’ voice. His voice is “perfect,” polished to pop perfection. A polished voice may be the cause of his fame, but it’s also his artistic weakness. Listening to the album, I kept waiting for a true, unbridled release of emotion to come from Styles’ mouth. Instead, all I got was the voice of a pop star too afraid to make mistakes.

A crack in the voice, the scream of a singer who’s letting their emotions govern their voice when emotions become too powerful to be contained, it’s cathartic and powerful. In my opinion, it’s a signifier of a great work of music. When I was listening to Let the World Be Flooded Out I was reminded of this. Lauren Ross has a beautiful, clear voice that shines in her songs. It’s a voice that would fit into the pop charts, but unlike Harry Styles, Ross can let her emotionality shine through in her voice. She can scream or show grit. Her voice cracks and breaks with emotion when needed. When La Louma creates a work it feels powerful and personal.

While at first Lauren Ross’ punk sensibility may be obscured by her classical training, it is there, evidenced by her vocals, her recording process, and her politics. Let the World Be Flooded Out is the first album released by Bitchwave, the feminist/queer collective and label Ross co-runs in Los Angeles. Bitchwave allows Ross to live her politics outside of her songs. The album is personal, but many of the songs are also very political. “I am Here I Am” was inspired by a first-hand account that Ross read about several female refugees. Ross said that “the chorus is a repeating declaration that ‘I am here’, and while it’s meant to be their [the refugee’s] statement, it’s crucial for me to hear myself sing those words over and over, too.” “Decline of Nations” (inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis) also serves as a political anthem and implores the listener to “Promise me you’ll stay until you try to make things right.” Bitchwave is still in it’s early stages, but hopefully we’ll soon have more amazing music from them.

In Let the World Be Flooded Out, Ross masterfully mixes opposing forces to create a truly unique album. La Louma makes complex pop music sound effortless, and combines her classical training, her DIY punk ethos, and pop sensibilities to create an album confident in its clashes.

-review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

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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

century palm meet you

Album Review: Century Palm – Meet You


century palm meet you

Toronto band Century Palm have just released their first LP Meet You, a nostalgic album that mixes garage punk with new wave influences. Simple yet catchy guitar riffs and fast paced, upbeat drum rhythms give the album a grungy feel, as if its sound was literally emerging from someone’s garage. These retro styles make Meet You a fun album, though not always an especially unique or distinct one.

Andrew Payne and Paul Lawton’s vocals are vital to the album’s sombre ambiance. The gloomy vocals, which sometimes veer closer to speaking than singing, are hypnotizing. In “Sick of It” the vocals even takes on a Lou Reed quality. Their deep morose voices combined with melancholic synths lend a distinctly new wave feel to the material. One of the most engaging parts of Meet You is the way those darker synths and the lighter guitar play off of each other. “King of John St.,” for example, begins with a high-pitched guitar riff that gives the song a playful quality while the lower synth provides the song’s depth. Halfway through, the synth and guitar switch roles, with the synth playing the high riff before ending on more sonorous sounds. This back-and-forth gestures towards one of the album’s recurring themes: something darker is always lingering below the surface.

While these individual songs are catchy, the album as a whole starts to feel somewhat repetitive. The upbeat guitar – one of the most enjoyable features in this album – tends to get a bit lost within the steady tempo and drum patterns. A saxophone in “Sick of It” is a welcome addition to the band’s instrumentation; the rest of the album could have benefitted from more of the sonic diversity it brings.

Almost hidden in the musical arrangements are the emotionally vulnerable lyrics. The album begins with a dark, horrifying description of anxiety and depression in “Reset Reaction,” a study that continues throughout the entire album. Of course, no such exploration by a Canadian band would be complete without a description of seasonal depression like the one found in the first verse of “King of John Street.” The use of the second person perspective throughout the lyrics makes it seem like the vocalist is addressing and questioning himself, a process similarly referenced by the album’s title. Payne explores the battle between who you think you are and who you might be, what you are and what you want to be, and what you feel yourself to be and how you present yourself on the outside. This duality of self is best displayed in “King of John Street,” where Payne sings, “Spending all my days in the east side / forgetting who I was on the other side / the Queen connects us, but I divide / don’t think I don’t think about it.” These geographic metaphors avoid heavy-handedness because of the nonchalant way in which Payne delivers them.

Meet You is an album steeped in interesting combinations: the driving garage punk rhythms mixed with the deep new wave synths and vocals, upbeat riffs paired with vulnerable lyrics. Though the garage punk and new wave influences help make for an engaging blend of styles, it’s not always enough; without much experimentation in tempo and instrumentation, Meet You at times feels a bit too safe.  

– Review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

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Album Review: The Luyas – Human Voicing

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Human Voicing, the fourth album from Montreal band The Luyas, showcases the band’s ability to play off of the tension between the moody and the playful, the experimental and the structured. The atmospheric opening song, “Dream Time,” is a perfect start for this album that seems to exist in an otherworldly dimension. The band’s use of keyboards and horns give the album a brooding feel, but this darkness is nicely offset by Jessie Stein’s vocals. Although Stein’s range is somewhat limited, her voice has an ethereal, sing-songy quality that provides the songs with a lighter, dream-like tone.

But while Stein’s vocals may lack variation, the instrumentation rarely does. Most of the music in this album was generated through improvisation, which keeps it feeling spontaneous – the listener never quite knows where the Luyas are going to go next. The drums, meanwhile, keep the songs from losing form. The off-the-cuff feel of the drums on songs like “Dream in Time” and “Never Before” keep the album moving, preventing it from being dragged down by more straightforward songs like “No Domination” and “Beating Bowser.” Human Voicing feels like experienced musicians cutting loose and having a jam session, but the Luyas’ ability to put this improvisational sound into the structure of rock songs allows them to make entertaining songs without compromising their desire to experiment.  

Stein’s lyrics are enchanting, playful, and fractured, evoking freeform poems. The psychedelic imagery she paints makes the songs seem like they exist in some dream setting. However, underneath the psychedelia is a very real feeling of vulnerability. Many of the songs centre around the struggle of life as an artist. Stein sings about the fear of loss of artistic power (in “Beating Bowser” she wonders whether “our best work is still up ahead”) and about real concerns of how to support oneself as an artist (in “Self-Unemployed” she sings, “Trouble in the multiverse, when you don’t make money”). She sums up both of these concerns in “Fed to the Lions” by singing, “And all your dreams, your dream of flying, sucking my thumb, for food and shelter.” These lyrics show the tensions artists experience between creative pursuits and survival. This fear and emotional vulnerability give a focus to Human Voicing, grounding the psychedelic, dreamlike setting of the songs. In Human Voicing, The Luyas have created a multi-purpose album – perfect for dancing or contemplative listening, fun but never mindless.

– review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler