• By: Owen Maxwell

Mitski turns a narrative into a full sonic torrent

Mitski – Laurel Hell (New York City/Japan)

Ever the master of the emotional moment, Mitski turns the narrative into a full sonic torrent on her new LP. While some of its catchiest moments do lean heavily on familiar writing, Mitski adds so much charm in the actual stories and deeper details that it feels like discovering new facets of your favourite film that you never noticed before. “Valentine, Texas” slow burns its intro to drop its watery symphonics on you like a crashing wave, and turn a moody track into a magical beast. Though it starts with a deceptive 80s charm in its bones, the pop gumbo of “The Only Heartbreaker” proves an elevated mashup of so many great retro ideas that it’s a delight to listen to, narrative sorrow aside. In this same vintage charge, “Love Me More” soars with its colossal synths and a scale of drums she rarely taps into, with her chaotic piano choices to keep things a little off-centre. Bits art-rock and bits Hall and Oates, “Should’ve Been Me” goes off with this pointed charge, and using all that upbeat fun to let her dance vocally and throw in a lot of ballistic instrumentation on top of everything.

Victa – Keeping Score (Single) (Ottawa)

With a sleepy vibe and heavy bass, Victa plays on the two-faced nature in love and friendship. Smooth and to the point in its production, the track trims out any excess, to just let you vibe to its catchy moments. The frustration of the ups and downs of trying to trust people is all to evident in Victa’s writing, especially given how many lines are written from an “if” standpoint rather than definitively. Victa’s video for the track, directed by Chleepy, is also a great location searching watch for Ottawa residents, as it shoots tightly enough to feel unplaceable to most, but locals can still catch the Bytowne Cinema and parts near the Rideau Centre in the background.

Madi Diaz – Same History, New Feelings   (Greenwich, CT)

Revisiting her own songs with legendary peers can be daunting, but Madi Diaz manages to enhance the emotional punch of her songs this way. Though not always a totally different creature than its source material, these versions stand as amazing takes on their own. “Resentment” takes on a whole new life in the conversational take that Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) brings in, and the pained soul of the track grows to the people around Diaz in this take. Within the more brooding direction of “History of a Feeling” Natalie Hemby helps deliver masterful harmonies, mixed hauntingly in an unnerving stereo production that lets every drop to mute feel eerie. “New Person, Old Place” hits a stride as the bells lead to its quiet guitars, and Courtney Marie Andrews more subtle back and forth of vocal cries really makes the finale of the track pop with aches of a generation. There’s so much weight and dread in “Forever” that it somehow feels all the more hopeless in its more synthy moments, and Angel Olsen delivers a shockingly restrained vocal take that feeds into the hurt tone of the track.

 The Standstills – Pretty Little Broken Thing (Single) (Oshawa, ON)

With a seemingly endless rush of energy, The Standstills bring a Queens of the Stone Age-style vocal and punchy writing notes with radio-ready production. Bringing a very poppy approach to the identifiable roots of this track, the group makes a lot of already great song ideas even more exciting in such a short package. More than the riffs and chunky production, it’s all the twists, and stop-and-starts that really give it that elevated feeling. In fact it feels like about five songs worth of ideas were harnessed to give all those singular breaks all the more impact, giving each chorus its own flavour, while letting the song still work in its brief runtime. This band has clearly learned all the right lessons from the artists they’re riffing on. For fans of QOTSA’s “Sick, Sick, Sick” and “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like  a Millionaire,” this track is a must.

Blood Red Shoes – Ghosts On Tape (Brooklyn)

Going from garage and punk rock darlings to a more Mother Mother-esque band in recent years, it’s intriguing to follow Blood Red Shoes metamorphosis. A little less distinct than their previous work was sonically, they do bring a lot of fun in the big moments of the record to make you want to explore it more and more. The menacing keys of “Comply” set it off on a destructive course, that soon gets so blown out it seems to be degrading like interference is slowly wrecking the recording. The angular attack of “Murder Me” is a fun and horror-movie like descent into spooky tones and a fun, if macabre energy for a song. The dense wave of sound on “Dig a Hole” makes for a fun change of pace for the band, and lets every dreamy breakdown amidst this madness all the more fun and dynamically satisfying. Though it bears a familiar core, “I Lose Whatever I Own” leans so hard into the harmonies, dynamic punch and moment-to-moment fun of the recording that you can’t help but grimace.