Album Reviews: April 4, 2017

Tei Shi – Crawl Space (Argentina-New York City)

What may be the strongest record of 2017 so far is surprisingly also a full-length debut for this Argentinean pop genius. After a string of critically acclaimed EPs, and a tour with peer MØ Tei Shi finally steps into a much more prominent light on this magnificent release. Blending the vocal styles that have made artists like Solange and Noname shine with touches of art-pop that have made Kimbra and Janelle Monáe shine, with a dash of Tame Impala, this record is sure to blow minds as much as it gets the bodies connected to them on the dance floor. "Keep On Running" starts things off as a surprisingly layered and destructive pop track, while ticking all the usual boxes as well. But as "Creep" comes on it quickly becomes clear, there's a lot more here, with the dark and digitize tones, and off-kilter harmonies and production. Continuing through retro indie rock on "Baby," aggressive R&B hop on "Lift Me" that infuses every great thing about girl group R&B and the relaxing "Year 3K" that showcases a purer but still very enticing ugly sound that Tei Shi rocks to make the most fascinating record of the year so far.

Castlefield – The Mascot EP (Ottawa)

Crafting some fresh local pop-punk, the boys of Castlefield delivered a new EP full of addictive pop hooks and catchy vocals. Opening with “Broken High School Mascot” gives it’s honest recount of painful missed opportunities with a brutal since of regret. Shredding distorted guitars and the grinding bass move from a slither to roars on every chorus and the band’s finesse on dynamic build-ups comes through loud and clear before every chorus. There’s a welcoming brightness on “Lifted” to contrast the album’s darker moments, especially with the elevating background harmonies. Loose, sunny riffs fly throughout the track, and the boom of each chorus eschews a confidence rare from many bands their senior in the genre. The crashing drums drive “Good Job, Rover” as the band races to their more glistening notes without hesitation. The metal-infused guitar fills are icing on the cake in the moment filled track leaving it without a dull moment.

Pile – A Hairshirt of Purpose (Boston)

Art-rock can still be aggressive and punk, and sometimes, the tension in that anger can produce something truly beautiful. This record cuts vicious as often as it blooms with tenderness with the dynamic shift making each all the more breathtaking. "Worms" is the hauntingly slow-burning picked guitar appetizer to "Milkshake" the album's turning point moment of brilliance in turning pain into such a tangible sound, while creating something also new and enveloping. Sounding like the most angry Vaccines tracks you've ever heard "Hissing For Piece" is a constantly rolling clanging ball of death. "Rope's Length" however takes everything right about the chaotic sounds Coldplay once made in their early days and adds in a level of angst and distortion to make it feel like its constantly on the edge of breaking apart. Constantly ambitious, final tracks including "Dogs" and "I Don't Want To Do This Anymore" mash parts Foxygen, Queens of The Stone Age, Radiohead and the final Bowie album for some crushing, unnerving and most painfully, real feeling music that somehow hits an emotional chord so fragile you'll feel upset even if it's in the background.

Nelly Furtado- The Ride (Victoria)

While Nelly Furtado was once as big a pop star as her frequent collaborator Justin Timberlake, as the years went by she stepped further and further from the limelight, seemingly to reemerge anew as part of the more mature pop landscape that's taken shape. Coming back after so much time away, she starts strong on "Cold Hard Truth" blaring bass, addictive percussion and weird but catchy syncopation. Unfortunately there's a lot of somewhat un-edged music that also fills this record, never sounding bad but not feeling honest or unique, and ultimately missing something, without even at least falling back on some of her raunchier styles of the mid-2000's This said there's some classic Furtado greatness on "Paris Sun" where she gets sultry and brings the bass and synth-driven club pop to an extreme. Alternatively bringing more uplifting and less dance-tinged music on both "Pipe Dreams" and "Phoenix" she proves she still has a versatile knack as a performer and writer. The dark-pop has one last moment of glory on "Right Road" where she brings a little bit of the ugly distortion of St. Vincent in for a weird and hefty single to leave listeners wondering where she's going next.

The Pale Light – Future Eaters (Ottawa)

2017 while currently a chipper year, has been rife with dystopian music and fiction, potentially due to fears surrounding the current political climate, but it has produced some very intriguing music all the while. With sci-fi overtones, the album drifts from moody to hopeful in a gradual yet effective way. Opening tracks like “Artificial Worlds” and “City Of The Dead” paint a fairly gloomy picture of our future with creeping synths and a sludgy drone. “Droge” and “Elegy” shift to a more triumphant sense of brighter days to come with glowing guitars and lyrics, with even more light in the song’s faster pace and overall tone. Evolving further throughout the record, “Night of a Thousand Suns” and “An Ocean of Stars” burn like true rock epics, with sprawling guitar progressions covered in emotive melodies and ominous synths. Mixed in with more pop-influenced tracks in between this is certainly an ambitious indie record to be sure, with a lot more buried in its messages.