• By: Owen Maxwell

The Weeknd wins us over immediately with sinister but delicious riffing

The Weeknd  – Dawn FM

Seemingly always on the perfect blend of futuristic wonder and the best nostalgic tones, the Weeknd hits a pop stride here more akin to Prince and parts of Justice too. With a metric ton of neon synths and thematic narrative stretching here, this may be Tesfaye’s most hopeful and cohesive record yet. Mixing a lot of keyboard notes that call to Kavinsky and Lazerhawk, there’s a sense that Abel Tesfaye is using his most heightened pop songs to play to his most geeked-out production fantasies, and its amazing to listen to. “Sacrifice” wins us over immediately with its sinister but delicious riffing, and the immense sense of grandeur to all its massive chords really hammer this one home as live show banger whenever he can hit the road next. The amazing Tomoko Aran sample on “Out of Time” is a treat for any city pop fan, and lets Tesfaye go full enjoyable cheesy in what should be karaoke on record, but is in fact a great sort of sequel track honoring a great in the genre. The choral harmonies and big keys on “Here We Go…Again” lures you in from the get-go like an end-of-film reprise, and Tyler, The Creator spits fire in his subtly melodic verse.  

AV – Anything I Know (Single)
(Vancouver, British Columbia/Edmonton, Alberta)

There’s a richness to the drive that Ann Vriend instills in her performances on “Anything I Know.” Even through a very minimalist intro, Vriend’s chipper attitude and swinging groove keeps you grinning right up until the band joins. It makes that step up so much greater and all the easier to want to sing along with, especially with the intimate sense of warmth that Vriend exudes to the listener as the song goes on. Each chorus feels more ecstatic than the last, and the shocking highs she hits in that finale really take your breath away on first listen.  

Turnstile – Glow On  
(Baltimore, MD)

While they’re certainly darlings in the hardcore scene, the subdued pop production touches Turnstile have honed over their career have made them such a uniquely enjoyable gem. By fully embracing its experimental blend of rock and electronic influences, this record constantly reshapes itself in the most intriguing ways. “Mystery” rides this blown-out punk high, while also merging in weirdly spacey synths and a floating bit of ambient pop to leave you guessing on every one of its quirky turns. Though a tad more direct, “Blackout” dives into a loose dynamic, so that it can swap between fiery, raw anthem and a lot of weird electronica inspired percussion that would make James Murphy blush. The laidback beats that intro “Holiday” make that drop a total gut punch, and give the song this amazing ability to keep swerving into different lanes so that you’re always enthralled. There’s a beautiful shimmer to their work with Blood Orange on “Alien Love Call,” as they leave you in a dreamy haze, but one that feels all their own due to the density of the guitar tones and their visceral vocal delivery.

The Moneygoround – Very Cherry (Single)
(Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island)

 With a very coastal calm in the bones of its sound, The Moneygoround craft a calm but inviting love song on their latest single. There’s a sense of 60’s pop charm, a bit of psychedelia, and even a little surf-rock in its chords. The group keeps it pumping and infectious as lighthearted as it is, and manage to really bring in a touch of sad awareness in the bridge. Even the doo wop style harmonies in the final chorus enhance that feeling of euphoria, and just makes you grin all the more. Amidst all this, the roar and heft of the guitar break is so invigorating, and shows this amazing control of tone that only comes from years of song writing.

Chloe Foy – Where Shall We Begin
(Gloucestershire, U.K.)

So rarely is it that a singular performer can feel so massive, intimate and mythical all at once. Chloe Foy manages to bring this magical realism to her work on this record, for soft-sounding songs that will break down all your walls and leave you shattered. “Where Shall We Begin” sees the arrangements matching every emotion and note in Foy’s music like living creatures, and the scale that Foy reaches with the musicians and harmonies by that finale are a truly masterful combination. The shimmers of sun in “Work of Art” are utterly comforting, much like the echo she lightly drips into the song to soothe your soul. While it’s not quite as front-loaded as the title track, the sweeping highs of “Evangeline” are truly inspiring, and Foy rides the power of her strings like a true artist here. As she creates a wall of voices and strings on “And It Goes” it soon becomes this mystifying lattice of tones that lets you float in its beauty when you lose focus on where strings and voices differ.