• By: Owen Maxwell

Album reviews for October 28, 2019

Gauche — A People's History of Gauche (Washington, D.C.)

In another wonderful punk-new wave spin-off of D.C.'s band Priests, Gauche takes a punk edge to much more danceable pop. With so many great harmonies and vocals rising throughout their album too, it's easy to headbang and shimmy around with reckless abandon. "Flash" exemplifies the spirit of their music, getting that kind of raw ferocity in their delivery in a track that's otherwise a bouncy party banger. This approach makes all the bright synths feel so fun on "Pay Day," as Gauche let their guitars and shrieking vocals go off-key excitedly. Things lean to a darker side on "Boom Hazard," where even their keys feel chaotic, but the more fun essence of their sound lets the track feel more spontaneous and raucous. There's a more art-rock feeling to that kind of playing with "Dirty Jacket" as every jagged bass line is contrasted with flamboyant sax line and the drums punch out louder than all of them to not only signal but drive the song into its next boisterous explosion of sound.

L'loop — Valleys (Toronto, ON)

As a more ambient alternative to her work in Casper Skulls, Melanie St-Pierre is taking on a much more ghostly quality as a solo performer. However, with this new airier quality behind her, there's also a kind of shimmering brilliance that we've only heard dashes of in her previous work. As the St-Pierre layers in harmonies and echo like fog playing off itself, the track aches of space and a kind of longing. Every lyric talks of a kind of comforting familiarity, while the little details suggest a kind of self-discovery through outward exploration. And just as the track seems to have hit a kind of outro, Fraser McClean's drums lend a hefty oomph to take it that much further and suggest a whole world that St-Pierre's music can inhabit going forward.

Little Scream — Speed Queen (Montreal, QC/Iowa)

Expanding on the universe she's been building, Little Scream's latest release is an ethereal experience to sit through. Whether you're there to dance or get lost in the haze of sound, this is a worthy competitor for Canadian record of the year. Between the spiritual highs of "Dear Leader" and the grinding feedback of "One Lost Time" there's a true command of sound like a force of nature on this record, and one that sees Little Scream really pulling parts in and out to drop dynamics in like catchy hammer. With a wintery rush in its bones, "Disco Ball" swaps between spritely moments and a fully sweeping set of choruses to make you want to run with wind fully in your sails. "No More Saturday Night" leans more into actual disco however, as Little Scream slowly surrounds herself with so many extra guitars, keys and voices that it feels like she's haunted by melody. The album also gets an amazingly warm and euphoric feeling through "Don't Wait For It," as the gathering of souls in the track create a proof of what going out for what you want can achieve.

Peter Hum — Ordinary Heroes (Ottawa, ON)

With all the instrumental producer pop on Bandcamp, it's truly refreshing to see someone use the platform for jazz. And with lush releases like Peter Hum's frenetic new record, here's hoping this becomes an ongoing trend. The dynamic conversational performances of "Crises and Reckonings" never seem to stop, as the horns seem to complement as much as they bicker. And every new listen shows a new voice adding something to the argument, which feels most appropriate on the likes of "Fake News Blues" as even the subtle shifts in the drum beat can change the mood. It can be borderline tiring (in a sympathetic way) to take in the shifts of speed in "Rabble Rouser" as dueling solos tumble into slow grooves with percussive play-time and then more abstract forms across its immense run time. However the titular "Ordinary Heroes" sees Hum's band honing in on melody with a sharp edge, before taking flight again and again in their rhythmically fluorescent take on a pop core. 

Cigarettes After Sex — Cry (El Paso, TX)

Through their transcendent slow-jams, Cigarettes After Sex continue to create a catalogue of songs that are equally soothing, sensual and somehow truly timeless. Yes this is more of what they've been doing, but with such a satisfying sound, they're one of the few bands where I'd argue they just need to get the rest of the song right to make things work. While there's definitely a little more of a glistening feeling to "Don't Let Me Go," the smooth production the band has nailed over the years lets their hopeful tone feel welcome but familiar. The band has rarely sounded as crisp as they do on "Heavenly," as Greg Gonzalez so intimately whispers you into his arms. They nail a few classic notes in the hooks of "Touch," as the more storytelling tones of Gonzalez create a story so romantic that it's truly hard not to blush. And to this end, the guitars come in like the sun so powerfully on "Pure" that you'll be compelled to take the world in a much brighter light just like the band seems to be doing now.