• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: January 14, 2019

Dan Mangan – More Or Less    (Vancouver)

Over the years, Dan Mangan has asserted himself as a lovable Canadian folk crooner, so on his latest record he's started showing his darker sides. Though its more ambient moments might be testing for some, this is by far Mangan's most interesting record in years. With a driving undercurrent, "Lynchpin" builds tension in the back and forth of his writing for something that swells as much as it leaves you waiting. "Peaks And Valleys" dances in its unusual rhythms as Mangan places you in some truly abrasive and shadowy soundscapes. Lyrics get snarky and more poetic on "Cold In The Summer" but Mangan also takes this opportunity to just push his music into a more aggressive chug. Between this and the newer sounds of the album, "Fool For Waiting" pulls you again through its heartbreaking story and the stark production.

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Milana  – The Arctic And Antarctica (Ottawa)

Though much of Milana's music on this soundtrack comes out of more traditional instrumentation, there's a sonic magic to how she translates it. It's immediately shocking on something like "Frozen Song" where hums of synth and reverb keep the song moody and foreboding, just as the jazzier drive would say otherwise. This makes a song like "Icicles Staccato" just as shocking to hear, as simple percussion evolves into something truly transporting in its cold world. While a few songs on the album struggle to grasp this same majesty, "Penguins Swing" dances and remains off-kilter though its groove is easy to move to. The album gets its most abrasive but exotic tones on "Wind Elegy" as Milana seems to really summon the elements themselves to make an instrumental full of glistening power.

Miya Folick – Premonitions (Los Angeles)

Delivery has truly been Miya Folick's secret weapon, and though you may find her pop familiar, the singing is not. Pushing sonic boundaries in places, Folick crafts an album that is a tad generic but shows promise of a singer that is ready to dominate the pop world. "Thingamajig" dazzles you with addictive riffs that rain down as Folick booms and whispers with equal emotional weight. There's a much louder energy to "Premonitions" where the melodies take you over just as the beats keep you on your toes. "Leave The Party" sounds distinctly older (read early aughts pop) than the rest of the album sonically, but Folick's avant-garde mix of traditional vocals cuts through beautifully. The most intriguing listen comes on "Freak Out" where Folick gets her weirdest on a song that gets oddly unnerving at times.

Jon Hynes Cardinal Giant (Ottawa)

Jon Hynes use of sound rivals many in our local scene, as he is able to bring out a wide swath of colours better than some of Canada's legends. "Smooth Operation" sets things off with a vicious kick, letting all the warm guitar lines collide with his vicious sense of pop for a song that never loses its sense of fun. Hynes brings a little darkness to "City Life" however, and lets his harmonies dance around the grooves for a song that really bites in its melancholic choruses and feedback. All the grime punches with an invigorating fury however on "Like You Do" where Hynes takes on a more stadium rock energy with vicious fills in tow. After wandering around tones of Sloan before, Hynes exploration of Eastern sounds on "Under The Gardiner" makes for a beautiful listen. 

Mick Jenkins – Pieces Of a Man (Chicago)

While respecting the roots of hip hop, Mick Jenkins shows his raw talent in spades. Even with a lot of minor updates to vintage production, Jenkins takes just as many opportunities to play with his own spacey production. The ambient flutters of "Heron Flow" start the album with a welcoming energy and sees instruments and percussion lashing out erratically. As this leads into "Stress Fracture" there's a much more palpable groove as the vocals get entrancingly experimental. Though Jenkins plays to 90's rap on "Padded Locks," the chemistry he gets with Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah evolves into one of the album's most exciting moments. However it's "Consensual Seduction" that takes these same sounds and uses them to mature the often misogynistic language of hip hop into something healthy.