• By: Owen Maxwell

Chan Marshall reaffirms her place as a generational pillar

Cat Power – Covers (Atlanta, GA)

Though she’s certainly a great writer, Chan Marshall’s aesthetics and performances as Cat Power are such a unique force that her cover records are legends in themselves. Moody as ever, this is a confident swan-dive of a release that sees Marshall reaffirming her place as a generational pillar. The reinvention of Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” is intoxicating, and the dance of piano and guitars against Marshall’s vocals are a true dream. The drive and unusual shimmering qualities of “Pa Pa Power” enhance the filtered tones of Marshall’s voice, and let the whole track shine with a darker power than Ryan Gosling’s original tune. The simple joy of “These Days” is made all the more charming through Cat Power, now melancholic but in a whole new light. The sheer weight of a Nick Cave banger finds an off-kilter momentum in “I Had a Dream Joe,” as the rolling rhythm section plays unrelenting, and Marshall’s ritualistic charge to the vocals making it really mystifying.

Lia Kloud – On Everything (Single) (Ottawa)

With a menacing mood to their latest recording, local Lia Kloud leaves listeners in the dust with “On Everything.” The bass thumps with gusto, letting Kloud’s more smoky tone cut through all the better. Kloud’s flow is the true highlight here though, as so many lines fly by at breakneck speeds, leaving you to grin halfway through the next lyrics at how funny the last one was. Though lacking in a bridge-like moment, the dynamics fill this void, with so many silent fills and layered vocals adding this sense of ebb and flow to the song that might otherwise leave it oscillating within one verse.  

Pussy Riot – Punish (Single)  (Moscow, Russia)

Pussy Riot remains a group that simply evades typical genre labels, as they drift between punk, pop, electronica and a lot of worlds in-between. With Tove Lo adding a little hook-heavy tones in the writing and the group playing in a more personal lyrical space, they show how utterly versatile their project can be. The mix of lo and hi-fi tones collide for a chunky-feeling main hook, which are equally grimy next to the digitized vocals. While they contrast against the moments Tove Lo drops a riff of her own, it gives this song a sense of light and dark that feels unnerving. This unusual mix of ideas in one of the group’s most infectious choruses yet makes for a listen that will make you want to hear the band really get darker lyrically with this kind of music next.

Iamhill – Side D (Single) (Edmonton, AB)

Warped pop-rocker Iamhill’s latest single is a blunt, sexual and blown-out trip, one that’s all the more fun for it. Mixing in Peaches, Tove Lo and Bishop Briggs, the track is constantly smacking your ears with explicit lyrics and noise, going all out at every turn. While certainly dark, the tracks pounding beats, swing and a sensual focus makes for highly dance-ready choruses, and ones that you can thrash pretty aggressively to as well. The whole song plays to desire and accepting what you need, and cutting loose in the most satisfying ways possible. 

Aurora– The Gods We Can Touch (Stavanger, Norway)

An enigmatic sprite of a song writer, Aurora continues to chart her uniquely folk-meets-nature side of the Scandinavian pop canon, and it’s still like hearing music from a fantasy world. With such a great sense of texture and poetry to her writing, and a lot of great songs, it’s easy to see how Aurora was picked to duet with Disney’s Elsa only a few years ago. “Giving In To The Love” lets the drums come in hot and loud for a brooding feeling, but it’s in that euphoric cry out that Aurora drops in each chorus that the strong flies to greatness. After this percussive turn, the layered electronic riffs of “Cure For Me” twist things right into high pop gear, going all out in its sheer quirky, addictive fun, and it’s all the better for leaning into its more synthetic and dance-fuelled sides. Truly one of the most warm and pure love songs in years, “Exist for Love” starts tender and welcoming, and quickly blooms into this surreal journey of strings, deep bass and top-tier vocals. There’s demented Latin guitars, colossal beats and unplaceable melodies lurking in “Blood in the Wine” and it lets Aurora guide it like a ghost, making for one of the creepiest moments on the record.