Album Reviews: October 16, 2017

Weaves – Wide Open  (Toronto)

Always trying to push the envelope one way or the other, Weaves have come with roaring pop on their second record, making their raw sound more accessible without feeling dishonest. With even more emotion than their debut, and some of their weirdest tracks to date, it really takes the band to a new level. "#53" brings a sprawling run of guitars to the head of the album, opening with a loud and explosive Bruce Springsteen style pop track that is effortlessly infectious. Taking a harder blues kick, "Slicked" sounds like a simple grimy run of bass until the burning choruses charge through, proving the band can turn even the simplest groove into a loud, fun party track. Through some of the sunniest pop the band has ever written, "Walkaway" shows they can really bring out real sadness in their writing, even while seeming cheery otherwise. Alternatively, "Scream (feat. Tanya Tagaq) is one of the bands most out there songs in a while, featuring bizarre melodies and even weirder vocals from Tagaq, as Jasmyn Burke finds empowerment from self-deprecating commentary.

The Monotymes – Basement Demos  (Ottawa)

While it's usually pretty hard to judge a band purely on the strength of their harsh demos, there's an immediately gripping sound to Ottawa's Monotymes writing. Poor vocal fidelity aside, the fun and strong writing on this release shows a band ready to make serious step in the Ottawa scene. Rushing fast on "Honey Baby" they shred while crafting surprisingly layered pop for a simple demo record, and manage to sneak in a lot of smooth harmonies while they're at it. While all too quiet at the start of "Many Suns," the cascading vocal writing of the song's second half shows a band with a devastating sense of emotional song crafting. "Caught N' Candy" brings in a hip hop tinged synth sound for a hazy toned track with a melancholy cloud over all of it that also brings out the second set of strong vocals on the record. A tad long, "Egg" is a worried mood-piece that takes its time pulling you into its shattered state before you're drawn down with it.

Cults  – Offering (New York City)

Cults have always been one of the more intriguing duos in indie pop since they hit the scene almost a decade ago. Harnessing the past here on their third record, the former couple brings a bittersweet sentimentality to their music that lets the retro inspiration feel warranted. Title-track "Offering" comes in with huge synths for one of the biggest pop songs the band has ever written, balancing happiness and sorrow in a way they've always done cleverly. "I Took Your Picture" lets the riffs fly for one dreamy track that feels like it never lets up on an addictive melody. Boasting some strong brass on "Recovery" the band subverts a bit of Beach Boys musicality and brings a rush of soaring writing that snowballs throughout the song. While a little obvious sonically, "Good Religion" finds the duo with a huge sense of emotion and a synth drop that elevates the song to a new space entirely.

MIKKRU – DRFM  (Ottawa)

Carrying instrumental synths with 90s beats, MIKKRU offers a dense and stylized take on instrumental music. As long as you can lean into the overall sonic pallet, this is a short and sweet release that will get you excited. Boasting the energy of "The Matrix" on "Run Man, Run" the synths flicker and the beats are throttling for a piece that will truly set you at a sprint. Moving its flutes like a rollercoaster while brash drums dance in the back, "Finality" almost feels like a video game boss theme, but does feel a little one-note for those that aren't immediately drawn into its grandeur. Sprawling to say the least, "Delta Opera" takes a frantic and visual synth line and offers up growling guitars to add an edge to  its overall aesthetic. Simple and groovy, "Brackets" ends the release on a grinding guitar line and a sublime piano hook that feels both ominous and magical all at once.

Liam Gallagher – As You Were (England)

While Oasis is long gone, Liam Gallagher hasn't slowed down at all in recent years, whether it be in Beady Eye or his outspoken quotes in the media. Finally taking his first stab as a solo artist however, Gallagher shines with some instantly iconic riffs and some of his most enchanting writing since Oasis. "Wall of Glass" starts the album with a brutally honest and clever lyricism, making the words all the more memorable through his exciting writing. Bringing a haunting mood reminiscent of Ian Brown on "Bold," Gallagher gets more ominous and ethereal, diving through tense descending melodies. "For What It's Worth" leaps out of the album with an opening that will make you turn your head and magical melodies that will keep it playing in your head for weeks after. Taking in a little bit of his heroes in the Beatles for "When I'm In Need," Gallagher moves away from the mic for a slow-burning track that feels hypnotizing.

Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent (Detroit)

Already four albums deep into their career, the heavy hitting Protomartyr has released their finest album to date. Blending raw and macabre punk energy with clever pop sensibilities on this record, they're going to be turning heads for all the right reasons. "A Private Understanding" pounds the album open with a barrage of drums, slowly ramping up the tension with guitars, eventually releasing it in choruses like Nirvana might have. Emulating the Clash on "Here Is The Thing" they bring raw bass and bizarre rhythms, resulting in a song that is never predictable. "The Chuckler" exemplifies strong ramping of excitement, moving from epic lows as it churns faster and faster, finally exploding in the finale with satisfying shrieks. Using dynamics and subverted expectations more than anything, "Up The Tower" holds the tension tight from the outset, releasing it in shocking and fun ways throughout.

The Commotions – Volume II  (Ottawa)

Gathering local greats from jazz and funk alike, The Commotions never feel overcrowded on their latest record. Booming right out the gate with "Good Enough" Rebecca Noelle's vocals are smooth over the key and horn grooves, making for something more than a throwback. With the brass flaring, "Bad Girl" really attack each phrase hard, quickly escaping a simple blues run and slipping in subtle vocal effects for a song that really elevates the genre into a modern light. Slowing into warm bass and chords on "Let Me Kiss You Baby" the strings come alive and the seductive tones start to fly on one of the most fun love songs of the record. Bouncing on sharp beats, "Last Look" pounds the drums and lets the horns answer each of its stops, even switching into disco beats in its later half.

Torres  – Three Futures (Florida)

While Torres marked her previous records with a clever sense of dynamic lyricism over more standard rock phrasing, her new album shakes up the music as well. Taking a more ambient approach to her composition and upping the ante vocally, this is certainly one of her most ambitious albums. There's a lack of ease to "Tongue Slap Your Brains Out" that set a great tone for the album, as the hardened side of Mackenzie Scott's vocals keeps listeners on their toes. "Skim" while more direct, lets its beats and synths hit hard while the vocals stay low, but when the two come together it's a wondrous moment emotionally. One of the most technically stunning moments comes from "Righteous Woman" where guitars shift from nothing to overpowering and Scott's vocals play around her entire range, making for a fun and meta commentary on gender tropes. Coming like a hard-rock single, "Helen In The Woods" as its synth lines attack menacingly, creating one of the most sonically abrasive yet easily infectious tracks on the record.

Christine Jakel – Satellite Moons (Ottawa)

Bringing a sense of depth to folk, there's a tempered beauty to the music of Christine Jakel. Her densely written but sweetly toned compositions all feel fleshed out but never over-produced, for a record that's pensive and exciting. The titular "Satellite Moons" is a moody and dark track that drives listeners through crying night times through its layered guitars and Jakel's siren-like vocals, however cramped the lyrics make the song on the whole. A dance of stops and starts, "Victims of Habit" has a coy little keyboard riff that opens it all up to a hazy mix of guitars, with Jakel debating the ups and downs of dangerous tendencies. Switching to Norah Jones-esque pop-jazz on "Like A Child" Jakel proves she has chart-worthy song-chops, that transcend simple pop for something deep. Getting intimate on her piano for "Morning Coffee" Jakel tells her lover that she doesn't need much but love, while a melancholy piano voicing offers a pained sense of realization.

Iglooghost – Neo Wax Bloom (Ireland)

If you don't mind a little chaos in your EDM, than Ireland's Iglooghost has an album that will appeal to you. While it may be a sensory overload for some this record is both a love letter to music and one that may take some getting used to before it can be understood. Breaking down vocals left and right, "Pale Eyes" opens the record with natural strings, making dynamic peaks in the weird builds he makes in between all the parts of the song. Weird and over-the-top "Super Ink Burst" mixes jazz and hip hop with fun results, clashing excitingly with a touch of saxophone. Filling the album with the spirit of Die Antwoord, "White Gum" maxes out every frantic theme on the album making a song that will move you if it doesn't stress you out first. "Purity Shards" however is a standout of the album, going lighter with strange balloon and foreign language samples for a calm yet beautiful track.