Album Reviews for November 18, 2019
Guerilla Toss – What Would the Odd Do? (Boston, MA/New York City)
Guerilla Toss has become more fascinating with every subsequent release, as they've taken their punk-jazz fusion and slowly coloured it with lush, spacey soundscapes. Never ones to miss a chance for mashing dance-bops with something more heady, this EP is a short but dense offering that flows beautifully. Guerilla Toss wastes no time immersing you in the synth-driven world of their record on "What Would the Odd Do?," as the track sets out much of the sci-fi like textures to come. As this slips naturally into the heavy grooves of "Plants" you'll want to get up to bounce around almost instantly. But it's the dynamic growth of the compositions in each chorus, and Kassie Carlson's ability to sing higher and higher and higher with them, that really makes this such a satisfying listen. Alternatively the deceptively catchy riffs of "Future Doesn't Know" opens the song up to some of Guerilla Toss's most abrasive and chaotic production to date.
Alexandria Maillot – Benevolence (Vancouver, BC)
While it's easy to expect a simple bit of guitar and voice from some solo songwriters, Alexandria Maillot brings you into a world. Between the spaces and massive mix of voices in this new album, she really holds nothing back emotionally. Right as the whispering strings and guitar sway is calming down on "I Never Liked Your Friends," Maillot punches through with a huge wail of guitars and reverb to take the song to a whole other emotionally level. Though this is a less of an outright shock in the rock of "Lose My Mind," the cataclysmic way each chorus rings out never ceases to hit hard. The duality of sounds gives something like "Pale" a little more colour, and lets even its down moments feel fleshed out and wondrous. Maillot transcends many of the simple arrangements here however on "The Judge" for a full-fledged pop number to make you want to get up and dance.
Gavilán Rayna Russom – The Envoy (Providence, RI/New York City)
As a member of LCD Soundsystem Gavilán Rayna Russom has not only bolstered the band's sound but crafted the very synths that help make them so distinct. It's with this engineering know-how that Russom really lets her artistic pop shine, as the textures and drawn-out concepts really feel otherworldly on this new self-titled project. With a bit of Kim Gordon-like moodiness, "Kemmer" brings you into a haunting and foreboding world of shadows, with just enough electric haze to frighten you. And in the instrumental wonder of "Envoy" the sense of places grows into a less overtly directional but thematic European feeling. Russom's genius as an analog synth designer is perhaps most notable in the fierce fury of "Strength Out of the Dark" where she’s able to craft something with the kind of exciting build of the Chemical Brothers, but with a whole whack of tones at play that are all their own. And though it seems to hold onto its central ghostly waver, "I Bleed I Weep I Sweat" is nonetheless a chilling listen as well.
The Good Lovelies – Evergreen (Toronto)
Though it may still feel a little early for Christmas celebrations, the Good Lovelies definitely make it feel warm and inviting in November. "What Could It Be" beautifully sets the tone with tight but glistening harmonies, as the Good Lovelies really brace listeners for the kind of layered sound the record boasts. The rollicking percussion avoids much of the expected holiday music ground too on "These Christmas Nights," and builds a great mix of personal but relatable conversation to the table. The bluesy angle to "Little Saint Nick" is itself a welcome change of pace, and the songs undeniable charm of the song itself only pulls from this genre shift a little. It is nicer however to hear the more atypical mix of woodwinds and guitars on "You Don't Have To Be a Santa Claus," as it feels a little more in its own place than many of the standards around it.
The Harmaleighs – She Won't Make Sense (Nashville, TN)
With so many acts lately aping on the popularity of acoustic pop, it's wondrous to a band actually doing something unique with the genre. Though it can feel at moments like it's just about to get too lulling, the layers of details in this release are what makes it all work. This kind of production is firing on all cylinders for "Anthem for the Weak" as the constant rotating cast of instruments plays off the weird vocal production beautifully. It's equally surprising to see the more upbeat pop of "When I Was a Kid" with bells and shredding guitars ringing out of nowhere. However it's these alternating feelings that create Harmaleighs most unique sound on "Mannequin" as they weave their warm harmonies into dreamy pop that bounces with a lightness and vigor rarely done on the record. Their strange vocal affectation dives to the other side of this energy on "Don't Panic," and pulls you into a dark half of their sound you may have thought they'd avoid.