Tag Archives: 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

LuyasArt

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