• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews for November 11, 2019

Jade Bird —- Jade Bird (Hexham/Croydon, England)

Though I'd heard rumours and praise for Jade Bird's debut for some time, it was a revelation to finally sit down with her new record. With an emotional maturity and vocal brilliance many decades older than her lack, this young English songwriter is a clear leader in the singer-songwriter genre that we've been sorely missing. As you settle into the guitars of "Ruins," it's easy to feel like you've heard this idea before, but it's the mystical feeling in its cosmic choruses that sets up the gut-wrenching pop prowess Jade Bird is bringing here. "Lottery" wastes no time in its stomping delivery, screaming out its hooks early and letting its explosive refrains to make you want to shout right back. There's a funky bit of rhythm in the attitude Jade Bird sways to on "I Got No Joy" and her vocal riffing borders on rap flows  here for a song that can get grungy and folk-like at the flip of a switch. But there's no hiding the anger on "Uh Huh" as Jade Bird kicks and screams her way through a rock anthem for toxic people that is oh so easy to growl along to. Though this is easily a quick collection of the instant-singles of the record, it's easily one of the most powerful records all the way through the year.

Photo: https://soundcloud.com/jadebird67

Gerry Wall — Jesus Is King (Ottawa)

Gerry Wall has built a steady crowd with the Local Kind, and they've returned again with an album of rustic tracks for the capital. The rush of glistening guitars and keys on "Most Criminals" is like a breeze of air, and Wall's vocals only smooth out that feeling more. Though the tones of "Today is the Day" definitely come from another time, there's a warmth to the chorus hooks here that push its hopeful message over the top. "Half the Battle" plays on an old CSNY meets Jimmy Buffett swing, as it explores the reality of promises with suave flow. Dire Straits energy lets out on "Graduation" as every little jazz chord hits with punchy heft.

no track as the artist has not uploaded this record to a stream service despite a Nov 1 release date

Photo: https://gerrywall.bandcamp.com/

King Princess — Cheap Queen (New York City)

Mikaela Straus is an even younger prodigy taking on the pop side of things, though anyone who's been to one of her shows would tell you there's rock, punk and theatrical elements in there too. Plus given how cutting and introspective her lyrics are next to her contemporaries, it's easy to see why producers like Mark Ronson have been courting her talents for tracks already. Straus effortless grooves through the R&B vibes of "Cheap Queen" as the smooth production creates a world of gossip around her dynamic vocals. However, there's a brutal tenderness in her warm but sad "Ain't Together," as it straddles the power of love when it's not fully realized. "Prophet" on the other hand shows a pop singer at the height of her game, confident, cool and able to lure you in with her deep rasps and harsh whispers over the rumbling bass. I had actually heard it so many times this year without context that I was surprised to find out it was Straus's own track in the end. While it certainly slaps a little harder as a dance track blown out speakers (or live for that matter) "Hit the Back" has a storytelling darkness to back up its otherwise simple energy, to satisfying energy.

Photo: https://soundcloud.com/kingprincessmusic

Safe Low Limit — Junk Yard (Live in a pool) (Ottawa)

It's amazing what new performance spaces can do for a show. With bizarre acoustics and a fun look, the band's sound is taken in some fun directions while playing "Junk Yard." Strings have a weird echo, and wub aquatically, despite the actual lack of water around them. All the brass takes on a strange low-end too thanks to the pool. But overall it's the fun and sass this group bring to their performance that makes it so fun to watch.

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/safelowlimit/

Cate Le Bon (w/Bradford Cox) — Myths 004 (Penboyr, Wales)

Every Cate le Bon record is like diving into a new world of magic that's just unhinged enough to excite and frighten you. Though her new EP with Bradford Cox is less pop-accessible, there's a fun art-pop side to it that will likely appeal best to fans of Foxygen's latest work. "Canto!" sets you off on rippling harmonies, and warped noise, as Cox chants out hooks endlessly to keep the track's otherwise strange production anchored. To this end, the synth chug of "Constance" provides a fun sonic departure for both artists, though it's exciting instrumental world would certainly have been fun to craft a more melodic song within. The art-punk end comes through strongest on "Fireman" in a dystopian-like mix of chants and robotic spoken-word, with a more concept-album-driven touch than the record offers many of its listens. And though "What Is She Wearing" starts off with some of the most abrasive cacophony le Bon has mustered to date, it's the Slits-like way it culminates that reminds us why we'll always come back to her material. 

Photo: https://mexicansummer.bandcamp.com/album/myths-004