• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews – Allie X, Beach Bunny and more

Allie X – Cape God (Oakville, Ontario/ Los Angeles)

If you've caught Allie X live in the past few years, you know just how potent her mix of punchy pop and dark melodies can be. With almost too much ambition and a lot of energy, this latest release sees Allie X as a songstress ready to take the limelight from everyone else. There's a lot of visual lyricism at play between the shadowy production of "Fresh Laundry," and it's only the restraint of the choruses that holds it from instant hit status. This is why the smoky and often breathy approach to "Devil I Know" comes out so much stronger, as Allie X throws every ounce of her energy into this sinister-sounding piece. "Rings a Bell" however shuffles with a Stevie Wonder like groove, as it tackles a bumping R&B dance beat for one of Allie X's most unique listens to date. Though "Life of the Party" feels like one of the most infectious dance tracks across the whole album, it's the disheartening tale of losing yourself and the appeal of fame that sticks with you. 

The Seance – The Seance EP (Ottawa)

Dark moody pop from the 80s is back in vogue, and the Seance capture this feeling with a powerful style. Getting to the dance grooves right away, "Rights of the Macabre" sets the record on a vicious club anthem. Though definitely a track to get you shimmying, this song also shows the depth of layers and powerful colour this outfit is able to bring out. Their more abrasive and vicious approach on "Pestilence" creates an unnerving quality that allows their already shady tones to feel truly evil in a way. There's an even happier medium between these feelings on "Entranced" as a dense wallop of synths envelopes you and The Seance leave you lost amongst the changing tides of their writing.

Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline (Regina, Saskatchewan)

Fame doesn't seem to have tainted Andy Shauf's writing, as he's seemingly full of more heart than ever. Neon Skyline is hopeful, joyous and mixed perfectly to make you want to just get up and do anything while listening to it. The bouncy pace to "Neon Skyline" feels like the sonic answer to a Wes Anderson film, and its use of sax just takes that into a more excitingly jazzy place. This use of more orchestral instruments gives a theatrical quality to "Where Are You Judy" and Shauf is able to constantly evolve how each of these elements fits into the melody to keep the track feeling well alive. This is why the inherent dower feeling to "Living Room" is such a nice counterpoint, as Shauf moves into writing that is driven by rhythm and subtler arrangements. "Changer" rounds the whole journey off with a kind of bittersweet reflection on returning home and how what we want isn't always what we need.

Butterscotch Palace Band – Vestibulum EP 1 (Ottawa)

Falling between the desert rock sounds of the 90s and a jam-focused group, Butterscotch Palace really let their music breathe. In a set of extended compositions, this release shows the band really playing with feel and finding ways to weave melody across stretches that most bands would repeat themselves in. In the sprawling run of "Leap Year," every groove shifts to accommodate the lead, but it's the way this rhythm section continuously mutates in response that leaves this piece gripping from top to bottom. There's an immediate rush to the kick on "Low Cut" however that leaves its entire intro tense, and lets the frantic release as it hits its stride really feel like this utterly guttural moment of triumph. While "Free'd Bir'd" takes this whole idea much more slowly, it uses every breakdown to up the kick of the bass and let every percussive hit slap right against your ears to leave you exhausted by the time it closes. 

Beach Bunny – Honeymoon (Chicago, Illinois)

Like the best rock, Beach Bunny's music feels urgent but almost always brimming with fun. Their sunny and often compelling debut shows how honesty can really make already impassioned performances feel raw in 2020. This said, "Promises" starts things off on constantly changing ground, as Beach Bunny take their emotional pop to diverse compositional heights. There's a directness and furious intent to "Cuffing Season" however that tackles relationships in a colourful and frustrated way while hitting that kind of sad dance music that makes you want to shake it that much harder. Beach Bunny uses weird rhythms to great effect on "Ms. California"  as they explore the pain that comes with not being "The one." There's a sense of Taylor Swift-like pop in the best way on "Cloud 9" as the band shed complexity in their structure to show the dynamic range of emotions that someone can bring us to.