Album Reviews: February 24, 2017

Sam Patch – Yeah You, And I (Montreal)

While a guitar and synth album may not be what you expect from a solo album from Arcade Fire's Tim Kingsbury, the strength of writing on the album certainly matches the pedigree of the legendary band. The brilliant melodies and grooves of a track like "Must Have Been an Oversight" mix in the proper sense of fun with the layered recording. The simplicity of harmonies on tracks like "100 Decibels" make it hard to think the track is based around a simple few guitar chords, especially with the vocals provided by Basia Bulat (found throughout most of the album). There isn't a dull track to speak of on the record, with the second half merely taking on a different atmosphere. Thanks to a mix of electronic qualities mixed some natural structure this record finds a brilliance of an entire band coming from the motivated genius of Kingsbury for a fine debut.

Maria Helena – Stories the Land will Tell (Ottawa)

One rarely puts sonically adventurous and folk album in the same sentence, but every so often it can happen. On local Maria Helena's new record she mixes a blues and folk record in with some unique production and instrumental choices to craft a record that makes even the simplest song's intriguing. Over the calming groove of "Night Creatures" there's a rumbling acoustic and distance to guitars and horns that give the song a strangely mystical feel. Through piano ballads like "Be Gentle – Stories the Land Will Tell" and "Follow The Light" brings a brightness and hope while there's a powerful darkness to the epic "So Cold" along with its mysterious background sounds. Although marred by some inconsistent recording, which leaves some instruments sounding flat or vocals noticeably different, the writing is consistently strong and enjoyable for a strong record by the Ottawa vocalist.

Future – Future (Atlanta)

While it isn't necessary to break new ground, it certainly doesn't hurt either. On Atlanta rapper Future's latest record, he brings some overwhelming production, that despite feeling samey at times, is consistently moving. While lyrically and on the whole the record does feel like a little bit of a side-step for a rapper that has everyone talking right now, it's hard to deny the flow and heft behind his rapping. There are some decidedly different tracks like "Mask Off" where a simple sample of "Prison Song" by Tommy Butler lends his beats a much richer base to play on, making the track feel well above many of the others on the album, just like "Might As Well" does through its brighter overall tone, and escape from the bass. While this 17 track album does find a lot to do in that extended length, it does feel like some compromise could have been made to inject the album a little more creatively.

Finderskeepers – Endless Winter (Ottawa)

After three years, the new release from Ottawa's Finderskeepers provides some music to warm you up in the freezing cold of the nation's capital. With drums that feel like they could fall apart at any time, and guitars so distorted they feel more like a wave of tone than choppy chords, the band cram an intense emotion into their brief album. Bringing angry punk alive on the angst-filled "Endless Winter" the band slow down for no one, while bringing the more rock-infused punk on the Misfit's-inspired "Left For Dead" which brings a noticeably horror inspired overtone the album. They even manage to pull out some riff-rock on "Look Forward" on what is the melodic high-point of the record, with vocals feeling endlessly catchy even on first listen. Even the drums have distinct flow that make them engaging to listen to even passively. The blistering solos and bounce to "Writing's on the Wall" find the band going even faster showing just how much control the band can muster.

Nikki Lane – Highway Queen (Nashville)

While there seems to be a consensus on the creative vapidity of modern pop country, there's always a few gems that keep the genre fresh and inviting. Nikki Lane has listeners from the get go with her haunting cry of "Yippee-ki-yaaaaaaaay" as it rings appropriately into "700,000 Rednecks." There's a markedly alternative rock sensibility to the dressings on "Highway Queen" filling space with eerie, echoing strings. The production behind the album elevates it in powerful ways, making simple guitar and drums feel emotionally weighted and driving, with bass never taking over the mix but climbing and lowering like a wave. On stripped back tracks like "Send The Sun" and "Foolish Heart" there's a distinct sense of focus on particular instruments' sounds that make them just as enjoyable as their dense partners on the album, especially when one echoed tambourine can bring an overwhelming sense of happiness on its own.