Album Reviews: November 12, 2018

Art d'Ecco – Trespasser (Vancouver, BC)

Through a complete artistic and aesthetic reinvention, Art d'Ecco has embraced glam-rock in a wonderfully colourful way. Through amazing textures and performances, this record shows off how fun rock can really be when you're earnest but a little unhinged. With keyboards flying furiously on "Never Tell" Art d'Ecco is able to constantly keep you on your toes as often as they keep you dancing. Beats really stand out on something like "Joy" as even its guitars have a percussive quality to help make the song feel a little on-edge at every moment. "Nobody's Home" creates a dance song with tension, as its own melodies tend to play a more moody role than any inherent hook. Between all the vintage sounds of the record, "Lady Next Door" twists all these familiar tones with a strong sense of something sinister that his keyboards bring out.

Write Home – Overgrown (Ottawa)

Pop-punk needs to evolve, and bands that embrace both of their genres more fully like Write Home stand out the best. With equal fury and beauty to their writing, the Ottawa band creates a lush sounding record that deserves to turn heads going into the end of the year. "Sow" is a mostly instrumental intro the record, glowing with wondrous synths and pianos, before devastating rips of heavy guitar work. Right as it seems like Write Home are slipping into the world of pop, "Overgrown" shows a maturity that allows them to embrace amazing production while still rocking out viciously. There's a much more theatrical metal direction on a track like "Ambrosial" as Write Home take on a more Dream Theatre-like persona while avoiding the lengthy and scattered rhythms that make them more niche. Between the rushes of percussive guitar playing and ethereal bridges however, "Violet" shows Write Home truly manage both sides of their sound without ever compromising on their strong musicality.

Parcels – Parcels (Berlin/Byron Bay, Australia)

With the rush of disco revival we've seen in the wake of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, their prodigies like Parcels arrive at the party surprisingly late. Though this record feels like it missed the boat a little timing wise, it brings a lot of sharp 70s tones and fun writing to make you smile. The album's smooth sound is so immediately palpable on something like "Comedown" where there's a wealth of arrangements and grooves to create a space where the band can sing rather laidback without totally draining the music. The beats take over on "Lightenup" where their delicious attention to detail can enhance otherwise simple writing into something more exciting. They get some punchy attitude on "Everyroad" with subtle samples, and lets you just get moving rather than worrying about getting to heady. They hit their most catchy high for the record on "IknowhowIfeel" with endlessly amazing bass riffs and a stronger sense of mood on the whole for a track that only suffers from a sense of being lightly derivative.

Jacob Earl – Anxiety (Ottawa)

There's something to be said about work that focuses on our own imperfections, and Jacob Earl captures his own worrisome nature in strangely abrasive ways. Without any hesitation, "Anxiety" surrounds you with strange beats and groaning distortion to keep you as unnerved as Earl feels himself from his troubles. "Go Away" does tend to lean a little too heavily into this idea without the right mix to avoid a kind of empty side in the song's overall production. This difference makes something like "Too Much" feel a lot more inherently sharp and lets you feel the kind of urban locations that inspire its sound. Though "Aura" strips a lot of this away to create a more cold feeling and moves you to a more isolated state of thinking.

Belly – Immigrant (Ottawa)

As a strong collaborator for The Weeknd, Belly has proven Ottawa proud and solo albums like Inzombia have brought surprising twists to hip hop. This latest venture however soars in its strong commentary on how we treat those fleeing terror but virtually never gives it the production needed to feel quite as fresh sonically. This said there's a powerfully mysterious energy on "Another Note" that makes Belly's underdog story feel truly unique. "Xion" on the other hand comes out with enough misogynistic rhetoric that it tends to offset the many great rhymes he kicks out with, especially with the fun and aggressive drive. Admittedly however he does start to question his own attitudes in this respect on a track like "Who Hurt You" and throw earlier lyrics into the realm of an evolving character, while he touches on many of his Weeknd tones. Belly does shine more than most of his guests in the amazing almost "Stranger Things" riffs of "All For Me" which sounds great but loses a little pop drive because of Metro Boomin's often mumbled delivery.