Sundfør Evolves her Sound While Maintaining the Unpredictable Core Fans Love
Olivia Jean – Raving Ghost (Detroit, MI/Nashville, TN)
Serving as a kind of hard rock (and very Third Man Records-appropriate) counterpart to artists like Holly Golightly and April March, Olivia Jean continues to drip out her strange mix of retro with modern grime. We leave the pastiche behind on “Spider” where Jean gives us a taste of desert grit, sizzling guitars and wailing wall of low-end that feels like a threat throughout the track. “Trouble” kicks with a great classic rock flair, with Jean honing her riffs to a razor’s edge for a fun single. The closest callback to her Black Belles days comes through the moody and dark “Ditch,” with exploitation films in its bones and a great lo-fi surf groove. In what may be the most lively Enya cover ever, “Orinoco Flow” reimagines the classic song with a running growl and hilarious pace, though it really works better if you already know the original.
Banggz – Placebo Effect (Single) (Ottawa)
With a smooth flow and a deep bass in the mix, Banggz delivers a sublime single on “Placebo Effect.” Despite the light swap between the bass and some airy synths, Banggz manages to ramp up the energy in every verse to keep the song constantly building at every moment. The track does a great job creating a debate between crafting art from pain and what damaging effects that can have in the long term if you begin to crave that. Banggz’s frustration comes through in the delivery, and even the growing blood on his shirt in the music video, resulting in an effect of someone literally dying for their art.
Susanne Sundfør – Blómi (Haugesund, Norway)
So much of Susanne Sundfør’s music has been defined by a cold production with atypical vocals that hearing her change that up again has become its own atypical switch-up. Recalling bits of Fiona Apple, Feist, Lucius, and several others, this is Sundfør evolving her sound while maintaining the unpredictable core we love her for already. “Ashera’s Song” plays between symphonic swings and a watery ambiance at times, letting Sundfør’s unusual melodies and starry tones on this record slowly wash over and envelop you in brilliant light. The more jazzy tick to “Blómi” is a fun switch-up for Sundfør’s modern work, as she unleashes all of life’s pain into a slowly growing production of amorphous harmonies and sax, and its multiplying layers. There’s a lively and healing percussive drive on “Leikara ljóð” as it merges tones of Americana, rhythmic chant music, and Lucius-like vocal moves into a spiritual track. While it moves in a seemingly predictable direction at first, “Náttsǫngr” gains this otherworldly quality as all the instruments merge into that one massive note, particularly in their galactic outro that takes it beyond the moon.
Francois Klark – Pirates (Single) (Rundu, Namibia/Potchefstroom/Toronto)
Straddling a tender ballad and an arena-sized chorus, Francois Klark creates a fantastical view of life on the road on “Pirates.” Though partly a travel anthem, it truly celebrates the romance at the centre of the story, as that feeling of wonder enhances every moment into something out of a children’s adventure book. The mix matches this magical realism by amping up the choruses into these emotional releases, where you feel truly lost in the trip with them, ready for the next moment. Klark so expertly weaves these elements together and sells the feeling of the track to you at every moment so that it’s a wonder you haven’t been listening to this song for years already.
Boygenius – The Record (Mechanicsville, VA/Pasadena, CA/Germantown, TN)
While Boygenius initially felt like a great collaboration of some of the strongest rising indie voices of its time, five years on from its initial release, it feels like a true supergroup of modern greats at the height of their talents. So many tracks here ring with a wealth of emotional depth, tonal wonder, and an unpredictable spin of songwriting ideas that it makes us sad we may not get more from this project for another little while. You instantly remember how strong this project’s bones are when “$20” kicks in with that powerful grind, letting the highs and deep lows emotionally create a full-tilt emotional ride in one short track. There’s a classic folk pull from the get-on “Cool About It,” that ties in so many small details and heartbreaking vocal deliveries that elevates its story to a truly singular musical experience. “Not Strong Enough” has the most potent alternations between the singers here, with each section getting its own unique palette to really highlight their colour as a performer in an already glowing track. After the brooding lament seems to have all but burned out on “Anti-Curse,” the track explodes off a cliff on a soaring final shout with the guitars and drums flying with them on the climactic peak of the entire record.
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