Album Reviews: July 16, 2018

Florence + The Machine – High As Hope (U.K.)

Throughout the years Florence Welch has continuously evolved her writing to match where she is in her life. As she sheds many of her usual metaphors for this latest album, her arrangements vary enough to both excite and occasionally underplay her music. Sharp piano lines give an instantly distinct sound to "June" as the album slowly builds up a pace in the writing and instrumentation that  it carries through the rest of the album. She immediately lets the dance and R&B swing kick in on "Hunger" where she brings a lot more dense compositions in something so uplifting. These arrangements turn more ominous on "Big God" where a little more brass finds Welch pushing her own vocals to the limits. As her band pulls back on the high-end for a more rhythmic direction on "Sky Full Of Song" Welch's vocals follow the unique swing for a pop song that defies convention.

DJ Pat – Uptown Electro Cat Swing (Ottawa)

As niche of a genre as electro-swing still is to this day, it's become broad enough to start spreading to ambitious producers. For one of Ottawa's few efforts in the sound, DJ Pat brings an album that is focused on keeping people dancing from start to finish rather than having specific moments. Though it has a more brash and early 2000's energy than much modern electro-swing "Electro Swing Fever" immediately has you bopping in its all-or-nothing sound. As this energy flows into more classical instrumentation for "Uptown Swingfest" there's a much more frantic mix of percussion and wind instruments, while the track seems more focused on driving beats than a drop. With a loud-and-proud stomp to "Quebec Swing Dance" the sounds kick right back up into heavy modern production while there's a distinctly suave nature to the riffs that keep them different. "Ottawa Swing Dance" calls to bands like Caravan Palace in its mix of vocals and a cutting hook, that makes its electronic bass feel upbeat and intoxicating.

Vallens – Dimmed In My Display (Toronto)

Toronto's Vallens never fail to impress in the live sphere, but it wasn't until now that they were able to capture this ferocity quite so powerfully on album. Despite being more instrumental than many EPs, this release is a sharp and emotional listen whether or not there's vocals in a song. As "Et Al" slowly roars out, synths fill the space in between the guitars while many notes collide for something tense and building. "Dimmed In My Display" continues this feeling in a menacing sound before the vocals come in to take the music somewhere more sunny and loose. Despite the simple writing behind "Occurred" Vallens flesh it out with their brilliant use of effects, as the riffs and drums create a stirring snowball of emotions that will have you moving before the song finishes out. There's a much more overtly dramatic performance to "If I Don't Know You" as Vallens switch between operatic grandeur and something explosively punk in other parts. 

Children Of Indigo – T R A I L S (Ottawa)

Much of Ottawa's rustic music is sounding sharper than ever as the scene grows, and for Children of Indigo's new record it just serves to make their voices all the more stirring. "Anchorage" is a classically-focused ballad that finds the group centering around a spiralling banjo hook while Natasha Pedersen's voice guides us through a harrowing tale. As the back-and-forth of vocals flies through "1952" the tight love story blooms and its harmonies provide a tender warmth to make it all the stronger. In its shining, brilliant piano lines "When I Found Her" takes a much more straightforward pop direction with its writing, while being equally as heartwarming as the rest of the record. Interestingly however, it's the sparse arrangements of "Wonder" however that pack the strongest emotional punch on this record.

Wilder Maker – Zion (New York)

We get so few musical supergroups these days, that each one is a true treat in itself. As Katie Von Schleicher lends her talents to some ecstatic rustic pop, Wilder Maker give us an album both testing and intriguing. The frantic rush of "Closer To God" is only made all the more electric by its powerful production, as it builds a mantra-like charge into a foreign and freaky explosion. They land on more overtly psychedelic writing on "Impossible Summer" where Katie Von Schleicher's vocals hold court between the song's more erratic and simplistic moments. "Drunk Driver" however finds Katie Von Schleicher telling a dark and foreboding folk tale, and uses harmonies to elevate a harsh and heartbreaking story. Even the rotating energies of "Cocaine Man" emulate the feelings of its titular drug for a song that truly feels as much like an experience as it does a song.