Album Reviews: September 19, 2017
Alvvays – Antisocialites (Nova Scotia/Toronto)
Coming off their powerfully stirring debut, Alvvays had expectations high for their follow-up. Mixing their control of emotion with a crushing sense of melody on this new release however, they manage to bring a lot more rock power to this latest release while packing just as much weight in the delivery. "In Undertow" blends its heavy production with Molly Rankin's chocolaty vocals to make for a song that inspires as much as it tears you apart. One of their brightest releases to date, "Plimsoll Punks" carries an exciting rush of sunny pop while Ranking brings her most biting lyrics and most aggressive baritone vocals. Layering guitars and keyboards to magical effect, "Lollipop (Ode To Jim)" is constantly surprising and satisfying, and the euphoria that comes from its explosive chorus (and strange echoes) is just the cherry on top. "Saved By a Waif" gets the most distorted, as the band brings one of their most sonically diverse tracks, while also bringing some of the most energetic hooks on the entire record.
Séan McCann – There's A Place (Ottawa)
With a long track of work behind him, Séan McCann certainly knows how to not only write but really shape the feeling of a song. In more rustic and Irish fuelled tones, his latest record finds him yearning to get away. While its hook does carry a noticeable Beatles influence, "There's a Place" brings its flutes and deeply textured strings in to move away from it, giving it a strong sense of place as well. "Starlight and Summer Rain" flickers with all the natural beauty its lyrics paint for listeners, slowly picking up its pace until it's a steady rush of life. With all the instrumental glory of Irish Canada, "So Long Sweet Little Town" feels like it could be just as strong a tale for immigrants (present or past) as it is for someone moving to the city. Carrying sunset-like melodies in its weirdly hypnotic blend of keys and flute, "With All Your Heart" closes the record with a sombre darkness.
Partner – In Search Of Lost Time (Sacksville, NB)
While any concert from Partner could tell you this band is way ahead of any expectation for a new band, whether song or performance-wise, this 19 track album should solidify them as an indie powerhouse. Mixing dynamic and heavily guitar-driven rock tracks between the two snappy vocalists Josée Caron and Lucy Niles, they even sneak in some skits to make the album even more fun. "Everybody Knows" opens the album with a Weezer-esque tear through the paranoia and realities of being high, while bringing face-melting guitar solos that make it really push the amplifiers. Taking a pop-rock approach on "Comfort Zone" Niles and Caron write some hilariously relatable hard rock that grinds with so much guitar that you might forget how dorky the lyrics about pizza and sweatpants are. Shrieking with that overdriven 90s energy, "Ambassador To Ecstasy" has all those soaring guitar lines with a deeply personal and catchy set of lyrics to boot. While the skits can range from fun to sounding like straight-up family chats, "Creature in the Sun" stands out on the record thanks to its strange dark, psychedelic tones, making for a much moodier track on the mostly power-ballad driven record.
Suns Of Sirius – Suns Of Sirius (Ottawa)
Taking an old-school hip hop approach with some modern foresight, Suns of Sirius bring some hard-hitting and clever rhymes to their record. Along with the exciting production of TempleOfTikal and Tao Bey, the tracks are just as cutting as the verses that fly over them. On its delicate lo-fi piano, "Swords Of Sirius" flows between each member with a suave delivery, recalling both Wu-Tang and Beastie Boys in their styles. Getting psychedelic, there's a thoroughly enjoyable swagger to the energy on "Act Now" as they rap together over what sounds like a sample of Lana Del Rey's "Shades of Cool." Getting a warped backing track, they bring in some vaporwave tones on "Codes" as they take a more introspective look at how far they come. At their most smooth on "Uplift" they time-travel back to the 70s, as they throw their attitude over retro lounge beats and even some Pac-Man samples.
Death From Above – Outrage Is Now (Toronto)
While it seems like Death From Above may never completely top their sublime debut record, they're at least trying to push the envelope these days. On their third record, they stray further from the heavy bass-rock they started with to make their most pop-infused record to date. Opening on "Nomad" they tear out with vicious riffs and loud bashing drums, really going all out in their rock sound on the opener before moving further into the pop. Switching to a much more keyboard driven rock on "Freeze Me," they bring in a different edge, as the frantic energy between distorted key lines drives their dystopian lyrics. At their most pop and weird, "Never Swim Alone" finds the band taking a weirdly vocal-focused approach that's extremely catchy, while driving the entire song on what sounds like the underground theme from Super Mario. Along with some slightly less standout tracks, "Moonlight" brings a haunting tone that carries over the entire track, while its building pre-choruses leave the pay-off feeling a little lackluster.