• By: Owen Maxwell

Album reviews: September 2, 2019

!!! (Chk Chk Chk) – Wallop (Sacramento, CA)

Sometimes music can really be about fun, with all the hard work behind it being harder to notice. So while !!! doesn't always match their live energy on this new record, they do a great job of hitting the same level of eccentric personality. "Let It Change You" slowly bridges in every electronic end of the band's sound, while letting all the quirky vocal ad-libs enhance their own dance drones. However there's much more life to the overall grooves and booming emotion on "Off the Grid" as Meah Pace shrieks the track to life again and again. The bright tones of "Serbia Drums" creates a more upbeat feel than other tracks on the record, letting all the pounding rhythms feel all the more heavy as a result. Pace keeps the funk alive on "This Is The Door" as !!! is able to create a light bit of disco and easily gets you grooving with a familiar bit of pop.

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Paragon Cause – Lies Between Us (Ottawa)

Like Nine Inch Nails with a different ear for sonic space, Paragon Cause creates harsh but often inviting synth pop. Heavy and dark, this is a listen that will excite pop and rock heads with equal delight. "SomeoneElse" screams with a furious kind of frustration, as it manages let its strong but clear vocals dictate their anger in other ways than simple aesthetics. There's more of a dance drive to "Separate Lives" as Paragon Cause slip into a dreamy haze of echoes, and in their might let any guitars cut through like a knife. "Kick Me" feels like a lo-fi lounge listen next to many other songs here, but has such a potent vocal delivery that you'll be on the edge of your seat to their passionate performances. There's such a great sense of production to "Drop Me In" that you'll actually grow more interested in the details as you go along and find the tracks emotion, and it makes use of its sparser sound with surprising creativity. Following the release of their album on September 13th, the band is performing at Irene's Pub in Ottawa on September 20th.

Olivia Jean – Night Owl (Nashville, Tennessee)

Ever since her witchy days in The Black Belles and Jack White's own backing band, it's been a colourful rollercoaster to follow Olivia Jean's music. As she creates a truly distinct world for her blend of vintage-fuelled rock to live in, Jean knocks out another record that is overflowing with fierce character. Though it falls in a more 60s rock place, "Garage Bat" layers in enough unusual effects and menacing chords to establish the feeling in Jean's coven-born aesthetic. The riff-rock takes over on "Night Owl" with Jean's knack for sharp moments spontaneity really elevating a straightforward listen. Admittedly I never thought I'd hear any band cover the bizarre classic "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" (seriously look up the original) but Jean nails the blistering distortion of the original and actually uses a lot of the song's exotic tones to create more witchy energy. Sadly she's not able to bring the same level of the song's classic vocal teetering but it works both on its and in her record nonetheless. There's a level of mystery and foreboding darkness on "Tsunami Sue" as well to set Jean's brand of vintage guitar music apart from her influencers, but it's still familiar enough to have one hoping for a true evolution on her next outing.

Matt Borghi & Loneward – The Still Guardian (Ottawa)

With the feeling of full movie experience in just their sonics, Matt Borghi & Loneward transport you in their music. In the sweeping, heavy keyboards of "Eternity Before You," you can feel hope, wonder and worry all fly through in the passing waves of its composition. However there's much more glimmering feelings to "Lifted, Held Firm" that create a more overarching galactic sound that somehow makes its emotions feel more grandiose. In the mono-dynamic but slowly expanding "Silent Harmony," there's a more pensive drive to the music, as both light and dark seem to collide with uneven trepidation. While it stands on similar tones to other listens of the record, "Monomyth" is able to eschew enough of a funky warmth in its guitars to set itself apart.

Molly Burch – Ballads (Austin, TX)

It's rare to be so taken aback by a sparing EP release, but Molly Burch packs more in a few tracks than many muster in ten. With a touch more of Angel Olsen-like vocal affectations than she ever dared to add before and her own sense of romanticism (musical and emotionally), Burch slays listeners on this record. While you certainly know the slow-dance soul behind "Only One," Burch's constant swinging vocals really bowl you over as you take this song in. And thanks to her mix of shimmering highs and almost comically low grovels, the track always feels like an intimate live listen. "Your Party" on the other hand uses the comfort of a familiar slow-burn track to really let all the emotions out in a listen. Whether it's the striking stops that Burch is able to belt her voice through or the piano-like hooks her guitars deliver so magically, it's hard not to fall apart listening to this one.