Album Reviews: Loraine James, The Anchoress, For Those I Love

Loraine James — Reflection (London, U.K.)

The abrasive world experimental electronic music isn't always easy to dive into, but Loraine James provides a cool, yet challenging album to tempt fans into their sound. With intoxicating beats and unusual synth tones, this record holds nothing back. "Built to Last" throws you back and forth in its waves of inviting harmonies and more dulcet bass. There's a more out-of-this world, cybernetic charm to "Let's Go" that feels ripped from a sci-fi landscape, as its constant chug and glitch-like timbres thrash on and on. The more chip-tune style of "Self Doubt" is a great dream-like state, that has you feeling like you're alternating between a trip and a club dance high! With Eden Samara's vocals on "Running Like That," James' sound really enhances a sense of romance but also the dangerous parts of its connections to make a truly emotive edge out of the track.

Dakota Bear — Setbacks (Single) (Saskatoon/Vancouver)

Socially conscious rap is nothing new, but the right voice behind it makes all the difference. Dakota Bear taps into many powerful themes of Indigenous oppression on "Setbacks" but weaves it into a much larger world of fear, violence and strife. The whole story itself feels so current, while letting their personal story feel anything but isolated. Dakota Bear's delivery here really makes it all work, as each line is punctuated by a mix of anger and drive to keep fighting forward. Even the production takes a step beyond simply sampling a gun into a beat, and even lets fear-inducing sirens become similarly melodic. While this track certainly presents a bleak outlook on the world, Dakota Bear empowers listeners to find a strength and power on.

The Anchoress —The Art of Losing (Glynneath, Wales)

There's a magical and ethereal quality of the work of The Anchoress (not to be confused with simply "Anchoress") and her mastery over a whole swath of instruments really lets her songs stick the landing emotionally. Heavily orchestrated works, but deceptively simple from a core-writing perspective, this record will take you for a journey. Even the back and forth of the pianos and strings in "Moon Rise (Prelude)" creates this moody swell of feeling, with each rise feeling more tense than the last. As the grooves start to push the songs forward on "Let It Hurt" the vocals seal the arrangement's power, particularly here with the little bell runs. In the more electronic-focused "Show Your Face" The Anchoress brings out a menacing grandeur, with all the theatrics twisting in with synths and neon guitar to come out louder than before. After a crawling beginning, all the tumbling drums of "Unravel" push the song into a truly kinetic pop experience akin to Kate Bush and the Jezabels.

Fade Awaays —These Visions (Toronto)

With a sound raised right out of the halls of great arena rock, Fade Awaays have an instantly classic-feeling noise to their latest EP. Though it brims with a garage-rock grit, the huge-feeling drums and fire in the guitars of "Meditation Medication" really let the songs chantable lyrics feel big enough for a stadium sing-a-long. "Jennette" throws every infectious indie-rock  hook, ooo vocal, and bridge into a blender to make an utterly visceral listen that will make you want to scream, mosh and cut loose all in one euphoric moment. The shimmering and warm energy of "Silent Treatment" is a nice shift within the record, especially as it highlights both the internal harmony of the band, and where each instrument shines independently better than other tracks here. Though of a total slow-jam spirit, "I Smile in the Spring" has a retro charm to it, and even those caught off-guard will fall for its sonic layering of sunny guitars, sizzling hooks and a growing cry from the whole band in its final moments.

For Those I Love — For Those I Love (Dublin, Ireland)

To merge a world of explosive dance-pop and a more confrontational spoken-word style, For Those I Love stands as a wholly unique project. With an approach that lets the words and melody stand as their own separate bodies, it might take some time to get used to, but the overall effect is worth it. In the bursting highs of "You Stayed/To Live" there's a sense of wonder, often grounded by the nostalgic stories in each verse. There's a stronger effect to the subdued vocals on "The Myth/I Don't" as the voice drifts like a dangerous energy within the shadowy production. This takes on a more symbiotic effect on "The Shape of You" as the combustive effect of the shouting lets the roaring latter half of the song really feel like a true taking off. It reaches a truly high feeling on "You Live/No One Like You" with all the sombre breaks just allowing the dance and frenetic energy of the instrumentals really soar. It should be noted with the instrumental-only companion to this album, there's also a whole second life these productions take on, which may serve those looking for a pure dance experience with just that.