• By: Owen Maxwell

Jepsen firmly moves into adult dance-pop phase with some great bangers

Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loveliest Time (Mission, British Columbia)

By this point, Carly Rae Jepsen is the go-to pop crooner of Canada’s scene, with a knack for knocking out amazing hits that get you jumping every time. While it isn’t changing up her game, it’s lyrically great to see Jepsen firmly moving into her more adult dance-pop phase with some great bangers. The neon, club haze of “Kamikaze” immerses you into the dangerous feelings Jepsen is feeling, as she takes you through an emotional roller coaster. There’s a much more assertive, sultry and confident drive on “Shy Boy” where Jepsen revels in the emotional high she gets from someone who doesn’t even seem to realize how powerful their love is. After a bit of a slow drip, there’s a euphoric rush on “Psychedelic Switch” as it sends you into a disco-infused, colourful trip through joy and sonic highs.  The effortlessly infectious pop of “Come Over” brings more dancefloor bumping, with all that flaring guitar and a intense glossy slide all highlighted by that sublime bass line.

Robert Finley Sneakin’ Around (Single) (Bernice, LA)

There’s a sassy kick palpable right away on Robert Finley’s latest track, as “Sneakin’ Around” gives that right tonal shift to modern blues to make it fresh. Between the grooves and the nearly shrieking approach of the vocals, Finley brings a lot of funk into the mix as well, making you really shake at every line he drops. Finley never lets up either, with the shift to percussion and cheeky spoken lines to his girl giving the track an even heftier final chorus. The whole sense of fun really comes alive off this track, and the tiny little details to make each riff and melody stand out sonically really elevates the track as a whole.

The Clientele – I Am Not There Anymore (London, England)

The Clientele have a unique approach to their songwriting and arrangement that few bands can touch right now, while also playing on enough familiar 60s and 70s pop-rock tones to make their exploration easy to swallow. Wondrous and acoustically pleasing, this is a record that challenges you while feeding you everything you want. There’s a lush and complex tapestry at play on “Fables of the Silverlink,” as the band weave a rich collection of voices, strings, wind players and more into this track, even moving the mood from invigorating to exotic to dreamy to anxiety-inducing. There’s a more string-ridden 60s psychedelia to “Lady Grey” that elicits a kind of loving energy while touching on bits of the Kinks and “She’s a Rainbow”-era Rolling Stones. You’re taken on a fully cosmic trip on “Dying in May,” as the flurry of chimes and bass-end orchestrations transport you to another plane of existence. The more cool pop of “Blue Over Blue” makes for a great addictive touchstone on the record, with a chorus you can chant along to, while still giving a great overture of the many beautiful arrangements of the record in one song.

The Criticals – Clever Girl (Single) (Nashville, TN)  

There’s a bit of the Strokes and Phoenix lighting up the riffs on “Clever Girl” by this tight outfit that brings more grin-inducing sleaze than either band. The guitars and bass fly like a harmonic conversation, with every line complementing the other, while somehow responding to each other. And while so many of those choruses hit that satisfying explosion of emotion and catchy lines, it gets better each time. The carnage can’t be stopped during solo either, as that perfectly blown out and cutting tone lets the moment take off into space, and then gets dropped into that earth-rattling drum break.

Jessy Lanza Love Hallucination (Hamilton, Ontario)

Ontario’s Jessy Lanza has always done a great job of mixing pop touchstones like Madonna with a whirlwind of sounds like the Human League, Soft Cell and more. With a more unhinged compositional quality this time, Lanza starts to dance into her most experimental work yet. In the intoxicating electronic swirl of “Don’t Leave Me Now,” Lanza is constantly entrancing you with the build and urgency of her cries, to create a feeling of dire need and ecstatic joy. “Limbo” takes a more directly vintage charm to its synth-dance groove, with Lanza providing the perfect high touch to balance out the thicker bass notes, all while discussing the pain of being stuck in the middle. Synths chunky and bubbly brighten up “Big Pink Rose” to create a very 80s track with kinetic beats and a massive sound. The smooth keys mixed the choppy vocal delivery on “Marathon” creates a suave tone in the track, letting the rainy air and sax create something soothing for Lanza to play in.