Album Reviews – U.S. Girls, RyanGreenBlue and more
U.S. Girls – Heavy Light (Toronto, formerly Chicago)
It seemed like there was no way Meg Remy could meet the heights of In a Poem Unlimited a second time. By shifting to a more groovy, piano crooner energy on her newest record, she's done just that and made a huge sounding record with a who's who of Canadian musicians behind her. The emotional depth at play on this record alone is enough to shock you, as "4 American Dollars" shifts from upbeat dance track to thought-provoking posits on the state of modern life. Plus the layers of strings, guitars and synths keeps this album straddling disco, orchestra pop and a genuine jam session in the most exciting way. Compositionally, it's a wonderfully diverse listen, that places more spoken interludes but also these frightening, abrasive mini-songs like "State House." As the instruments take on sliding strings, marimbas and a killer synth bass, "And Yet It Moves" absolutely brings out dark-dance energy, with a strange Latin edge to its sound that every loose harmony enhances with ghostly ambiance. Yet Remy brings you in close on piano tracks like "Woodstock '99" which brings you through two intertwining narratives and a powerfully cheeky nod to Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park."
Ploom – Cherries (Demos) (Ottawa)
Though it presents the rough edges of a demo record, the latest dripping of material from Ploom is much more fleshed out than that title would suggest. Even the fidelity seems to add to the wonder on a song like "Cardinal Heights" which floats around like an ambient synth dream. "Turn Around" itself is filled with such a brilliant rush of tones, that if anything this feels more like a record all but one mixing step away from completion, and that's only if you read into aspects of the sound as unpolished rather than intentional. Ploom's sense of rhythm gives the solemn "We Decide" a real unique flavour on the record, as it ebbs and flows rather than simply chugging along. Alternatively the much louder "In View" really makes the most of its driving sound to really let the blown-out guitars breath.
Julia Bardo – Phase (Manchester, U.K.)
Singers like Julia Bardo bring a depth to guitar pop, weaving a bridge between country, folk, pop, rock and psychedelia like a mosaic rather than a clear stack of bricks. As you fall into each track of this EP, you'll find yourself in a much more colourful place than you started only a few minutes prior. The swaying twang of "Into Your Eyes" itself quickly ends up a distorted and soon Bardo's own frustration takes every moment of the track between watery echoes and tarnished fuzz. The desert tones lend a more sandy feeling to "Please Don't Tell Me" as every percussive beat is a little more wooden, and the song drifts into a frantic art-pop, with wonderful hints of Cate Le Bon in its DNA. "Lonely Morning" is the closest to a standard, pop track here, but there's such a wonderful life to Bardo's use of rhythms and weird tremolos that it's so easy to get lost in its grooves. Then you get the genre-hopping of "I Wanna Feel Love" that constantly bounces between a lush love song with Southern influence and a fiery synth-pop dream.
RyanGreenBlue – Unknown EP (Ottawa)
The level of polish and sonic variety you get on RyanGreenBlue's new EP uses the rougher tones of a synth to add percussive quality to every layer. While "Unknown" itself feels steps between a police drama theme and a lo-fi dance track, there's something entrancing to the way each note provides its own drive in the song. "Haggstream" on the other hand slowly drips out with an orchestral beauty, teetering between its own melodic charm and a touch of darkness in its production to leave you worried about every turn. The more futuristic overtones of "Configured Orbit" only make one lean into the thought of what might cause such a melancholic lead, and otherwise the meaning behind such front and centre beats. "Broken Chip" goes straight for a video game 8-bit sound though, and closes the record on a totally groovy and grimy piece that would make you want to dance even if you were actually in a boss fight.
Disq – Collector (Madison, Wisconsin)
As a reflection of the frustrations many of us millennial youth are facing, Disq crafts a punk-fuelled record of feedback and discontent. Between the waves of grinding distortion and truly relatable mountains that our generation seems to need to climb, this record feels necessary and poignant as possible. Nothing sums all this up better than the clanging and angular "Daily Routine" that moves between fun nonsense, blown-out shredding and a lot of grievances that come with trying to get by in the internet age. The float between more rustic tones and a little sunny rock on D19 also recalls Weezer, while Disq crafts a wonderful bit of poetry in its storytelling. Behind all the oppressive fuzz of "Gentle" you'll hear a band trying to find a little solace against constant setbacks, while the music harnesses this into tender melodies and crunching shrieks. The most euphoric state of this album comes out however on "Drum In" where Disq drift between chipper waves of tremolo and echo before using their feedback for more surreal warps to crisp breaks.