• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: April 8, 2019

Solange – When I Get Home (Houston, TX/New Orleans)

Solange had found a wonderfully artful and pop-focused direction on A Seat At The Table, so her follow-up had a lot to live up to. Here she takes a lightly Stevie Wonder tone and plays around the margins of pop to make something that transcends traditional genre definitions. Though "Down With The Clique" plays on a lounge-like piano groove and beat, so many of its components twist and turn the song into a wonderfully experimental listening experience. "Way To The Show" tumbles through its bass lines and even swaps in gun sounds to establish a sense of wonder and unease all at the same time. The soothing nature of her sound takes off beautifully on "Stay Flo" where Solange dances between traditional melodic pop writing and something rhythmically exciting. This infects the beats of "Almeda" to a wonderful end as Solange is able to really get out there in her vocals, while simultaneously laying out some powerful political statements on class. 

Hikikomori – Uzumaki (Ottawa)

Rarely can someone create a musical companion independent of a piece of art that works so well on its own. As a thematic echo of Junji Ito's manga Uzumaki, Hikikomori creates something with the same feeling of dread but it's own way of colouring it. The discordant horns of "Economic Viability" suggest a demented energy, while the explicit closing narration seems to bring out an otherworldly evil. "Hailstorm" goes right into overt anime energy, while using a sense of unnerving distortion to muddy up all the background noise into something confrontational. Somehow dance energy comes through as well on "Haunted Houses" while there's a ghastly quality to all the electronics around it. "Onryo" is perhaps the most straightforward score track, but also carries some of the heaviest emotions of the album.

Priests – The Seduction Of Kansas (Washington, DC)

With the limits of playing pure punk, Priests have started to infect their writing with dance energy and weird effects. The result keeps their same furious spirit and injects wonderfully out there feeling to help them be even more accessible but still potent. As you hear the growls of "Jesus' Son" there's a lot more groove driving the music, while riffs and rallying choruses assure you can still mosh to it as much as dance. This takes a truly interesting turn on "The Seduction of Kansas" where disco is lathered in distortion and angular riffs to become this wonderfully ugly melange. While they dip away from their punk roots at points on this record, "Ice Cream" redefines them in moody reverb to turn cheerleader-like calls into something darker. Priests hit their aggressive peak on "Control Freak" with notes of their early work too, and some great dreamy guitar work that helps elevate the music even more.

The Aquarian Initiative – Simple Talk (Ottawa)

There's a smoky but equally ethereal quality to The Aquarian Initiative's music, that makes a simple guitar track like "Beneath The Shadows" so intriguing. "Evening" strips a lot away for a bright but somewhat uncertain kind of track. There's a real heart and sense of strong folk-pop to "Time Space" however as its whistles and bounces along its hooks. While "Twilight Vision" feels a little more pop, there's a richness to its writing that carries it and shows promise for fuller productions.

Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Los Angeles)

While many people can mistake Billie Eilish for the latest fad pop singer, she's consistently released great hits with obtuse feelings to them. Though you can definitely sink into the fun energy of many tracks here, there's enough darkness to satisfy that side of listeners too.  Bass oozes out with the attacking vocals on "Bad Guy" as Eilish seems to lure the listener in as much as creep them out. Even in the light vintage-pop of "Xanny" Eilish blows out her bass and warps vocals to create an entirely new and frightening experience. There's an instantly intoxicating energy to all the hooks of "You Should See Me In A Crown" but it's all the weird editing and muck of the sounds that makes you come back. Eilish's vocals get uncomfortably close on "8" while her pop writing dances between the wonder of a party and the fear it can present too.