Album Reviews: The Drums, Helena Deland, Hannah Diamond
The Drums – Jonny
Jonathan Pierce has made an instantly identifiable sound with the Drums, and recently has made amazing variations on that solid foundation. With another album playing on these themes, Pierce might be starting to repeat themselves a little too much, but does it with such an excitement that it may age better over the years when listening to all their albums together. With a renewed cold air in the mix, “I Want It All” sees The Drums’ sound enriched with even deeper harmonies, more dire emotional feeling, and that cool bass-driven sound we’ve come to love. Despite its almost bubble-gum pop-style core, “Isolette” has such a dense and unhinged mix of strings, synths, electronic whirs and riffing that it sees a newfound craze to the arrangements of everything. Though definitely more into their exact sound as of the past few records, almost painfully so given the song’s name, there’s still a lot to love in the glowing writing of “Obvious” as it begs to be sang along to. Alternatively, the way Pierce shapes these melodies on “The Flowers” morphs the track into a more surreal track as it rides euphoria and hopelessness in equal parts.
Alex Exists – Mindful Madness
In the theatrical chaos of their latest single, Alex Exists navigates the hardships of mental illness and how to find something inspiring in it. Playing on a bit of goth and larger-than-life alt-pop, Alex Exists creates a dark world to reflect their own torment, as well as the overwhelming feeling the modern world can give. The bass grooves slink like dangerous animals and synths play on vintage horror sounds, leaving the track with a perfect Halloween tone to it as well. Despite the spooky overtones, Alex Exists empowers themselves by exploring this topic and taking their situation for what it is, and by making a sound that matches them, it’s hard not to understand them deeper as a person.
Helena Deland – Goodnight Summerland
(Summerland, British Columbia/Montreal)
Delivering intimate, emotional records one after another, Helena Deland has only matured in her songwriting over the years. Playing with what one could define as an “acoustic” record, Deland has made one of the year’s most layered and dazzling records that manages to be small and big at the same time. There’s a great blend of lush and quiet on “Spring Bug” which sees Deland using the space of her track to slowly build in so many little instrumentation notes, showing a beautiful craft in her ability to layer and focus these voices into something bigger. “Bright Green Vibrant Gray” feels like sun and a cool breeze passing over you, as subtle textures of the track bring out a whole spatial dimension in its sound. There’s a movement and drop in “The Animals” that will move you in its first chorus drop, with Deland expands her guitar ballad into a radiantly arranged wonder full of hypnotic tones. Deland’s play with production takes focus on “Swimmer” as washes of noise leapfrog each other throughout the track’s run, taking Deland’s solemn track and growing it into a startling sonic moment.
Diane Coll – Happy Fish (And Other Delights)
With a wisdom and commanding drive to their guitar playing, Diane Coll’s latest album has a self-assured power to it that grabs your attention. There’s a real sense of attacking the sound on “Daylight,” as Coll lets the guitars and drums hit the track with equally pointed qualities. You can feel the dreamy, hazy moment that Coll is singing about in the mix of “Cowboy Church,” as the song’s slow and smoky feeling brings you into that dizzying feeling. Rather than living with regret, “My Rearview Life” celebrates how small troubles seem as you move on, with the track building momentum like a runaway train until its booming with dynamic hope for tomorrow. Playing on vintage folk with brilliant sonic touches to flesh out a mystical tone in the track’s story, “So It Goes” feels like an omnipotent look at your own life, from the outside, and how magical that can feel.
Hannah Diamond – Perfect Picture
In the world of pop singers, Hannah Diamond crafts worlds for her songs to live in. While there’s plenty for fans of Caroline Polachek, Chvrches and Charli XCX to love here, Diamond’s brand of hyperpop stands as its own magical mélange that you’ll obsess over as well. There’s a great rush to “Affirmations” that makes you want to run with a renewed sense of drive and vigor, as the track’s snowballing hype throws a little pep into your outlook on life. There’s a fun bounce to “Poster Girl,” as Diamond layers three different iconic vocals over her chorus to make an unforgettable performance. After its walloping bass drops, “Want You To Know” has a vibrant, sprawling electronica charge that evokes futuristic landscapes. There’s more of a sense of scale to “No FX” as every punchy chorus drives the song from a quiet and…effectless energy to something burning brighter than the sun.