Album Reviews: August 6, 2018

Phantastic Ferniture – Phantastic Ferniture (Australia)

If you were lucky enough to catch Julia Jacklin's heartbreaking indie-folk, her chipper new indie project is the perfect cure to her older blues. Working with friends Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan K Brennan for simple and fun pop, Jacklin crafts something exciting while still  emotionally poignant. As the familiar pop hooks ring out on "Bad Timing" the familiar trappings of bad love ring out on a track that not only lands catchy choruses but great breakdowns. "F***in' 'n' Rollin" stands as the album's most addictive track, with Jacklin's simple vocalizations and callouts of the word 'fantastic' (or perhaps phantastic in this case) just adding to its effortlessly catchy and fiery attitude. While "Gap Year" does feel much more serious than other songs, there's a roaring spirit behind the rough guitars and pounding drums to lighten up Jacklin's story. Though it feels pulled from late 2000s indie pop (not dissimilar to The Balconies), "Dark Corner Dance Floor" is a quickly explosive and loud dance-rock banger to get you moving.

Grand Fisher – Backyard Burgers and Best Friends (Ottawa)

As local producers continue to try their hand at boundary-breaking music, there's so many interesting sounds to be had. Grand Fisher pushes abrasive vocals all over "Bishes" as the club base of the song maintains an accessible core. "Drop That User" continues this energy with a stronger bass, and more in-your-face lyricism. As Grand Fisher finally breaks from these tones on "RIP Jenna" there's a story underneath its slimy production that will worry and devastate you. "Walk Away" rips out however as the most pop-centered piece of the album, that while loud and piercing at times, is inherently easy to follow.

Astronauts Etc. – Living In Symbol (Oakland, California)

Though they're certainly pulling from a lot of other acts, Astronauts Etc. create such a unique mood with their powerful sound that they make it all their own. With emotion as the centre of their writing, they create music that resonates with listeners on a deeper level. While the synth production starts to play against the keyboards on "Symbol Land" there's a trippy aesthetic that builds around to give the vocals room to breathe. "Shut My Mouth" ups the spirit of the record quickly while having the acoustic sounds morph into something completely new. "9 Fingers" highlights the beauty in the record's instrumentation for a track that's all about show, as its riffs aren't quite as fresh. They entrance listeners on "Kelly On The Moon" as the layers of processing make their love song even more hopeful.

Chris Zimmerman & The Weather – The Rain (Ottawa)

In the warm energy and simplistic folk of "Summer Rain" makes you want to groove around while it carries itself on a funky production that really helps the song stand out from so much barebones acoustic guitar pop. Despite a name that suggests downbeat music, "The Rain" is one of the album's catchiest and most spirited tracks that takes its sombre subject matter and keeps it catchy. The bass hooks hit their most swinging on "Hey You" as Zimmerman gets intensely wholesome to talk about reconnecting. While it's definitely speaking to a particular mindset, "I Love This Town" looks at the constants we take for granted in life.

Clearance – At Your Leisure (Chicago)

Simple and to the point, this record from Clearance is one that you'll like without ever having to over-think it. This isn't a slight to the band however, as their writing hits on the all important simple moving quality of music for something fun and rhythmically visceral. "Chances Are" gets things rolling on a powerful note as tiny moments build and build until you get lost in the entrancing energy. In its vintage aesthetic, "Frozen Orange/No Wonder" kicks out with shrieking guitars and verses so quirky you'll have trouble forgetting them. This sense of lyricism continues on "Rumored Sequel" as they distort some quirky riffs for a bouncy and chipper track. "Gallery Glare" even taps into some British rock tones for something that while pop is still lush and layered.