• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: March 9, 2019

Stella Donnelly – Beware Of Dogs (Perth, Australia)

Every once in a while you hear a record that can really shock you, whether it's a great sound or the emotional impact. This debut LP sees Stella Donnelly soothing you in her music while telling cutting stories that tap into modern anxieties. Just as you're grooving to the warm tones of "Old Man" you'll start to hear the tale of age overriding common decency, as Donnelly shouts down perverts.  Donnelly stretches out her composition more on "Mosquito" but creates so much great imagery in her writing that it's easy to get lost rather than bored. Hooks are equally addictive on this record, where songs like "Lunch" can go from innocuous to delightful in a moment. The standout listen is probably "Boys Will Be Boys", which laments in guttural screams how easily men can get away with serious crimes.

Jacob Earl – Spoons (Ottawa)

Jacob Earl is if nothing else a musician who is constantly trying something new in their music. Though this latest release is definitely more of an exercise in emotional matching than strict melody, it gives some interesting moments to say the least. There's a dissonant buzz to "Shepherd's Pie" that contrasts its soothing ukulele in a strange dance. Earl's exploration musically is held back by an overtly blunt lyrical direction in songs like "Salty," where the poetry slips away. Fortunately "Soup" finds a solid groove to play around in, and at least leave the heavily literal energy of the words from being too off-putting. "Salad" even takes a more experimental route in the production and opens up Earl's more explorative writing to something worth the switch-up in sound.

Rick Rude – Verb For Dreaming (Dover, New Hampshire)

As disorienting as records can be when they swap moods continuously, there's a fun to it if the songs are good enough. Slipping through "Dollyhook" you go from a mesmerizing groove to an all encompassing feeling that drive the song as much as it colours it. Rick Rude go all out on "Dough Nation" however, and shred so fast it might take you multiple listens to see how much they mess with their effects as well. "Drumpf" slow-burns its raging story, and makes its final explosive punches in the performance well worth the wait. The most fun comes on "Mason" as infectious rock choruses is fuelled with more modern furious energy to spruce things up.

Jessica Bianconi – Jessica Bianconi (Ottawa)

Though there's a lot from Jessica Bianconi's pop you've heard before, her latest record is full of polish and enough great writing to hold your attention. Above the strong core of "Anymore" Bianconi sets herself apart through strange vocal warps and a sense of atmosphere that's built through a handful of strange effects. "Self Love" is albeit a little more straightforward as a track, but sees Bianconi really leaning into the song's emotional story. The sense of overall production shines through again on "Shadow Dance" as a mix of low and high fidelity mixing creates a great tension within the song. "Trusted A Lie" fleshes out the uses of sound-work on the album once again to really give her darker track a sense of surreal sadness.

Daniel Romano – Finally Free (Pelham, Ontario)

Layered emotion only begins to describe Daniel Romano's sound, with this latest record really drifting between texture and emotion. There's a darkness behind "Empty Husk" that create a tension in the writing as Romano slips between heavy bursts of life and downbeat verses. Romano lifts you back up on "All The Reaching Trims" as guitars euphorically sing and he gets ecstatically experimental in his own singing. "Celestial Mains" goes all out in exploring the depths and heights in Romano's sound-crafting. It's the expansion on traditional writing on songs like "The Long Mirror of Time" however, that see him creating a nostalgia for a music that never quite was before.