Thursday, June 21, 2018

Natalie Evans - "In Trees"

It's not in service of '90s Britpop, but Natalie Evans vocals' make me recall Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays as both share a breathy delivery and an effortlessly high vocal range. On "In Trees" (below) and the rest of Better At Night, Evans blends folk and pop in equal measure and has me thinking back to favourite songs from Harmony Trowbridge and Casey Dienel. Evans plays guitar, piano and harp (check out "Empty Rooms and Aeroplanes' for the harp highlight) and knows which instrument to employ on each song for maximum musical effect. With no song nearing the 3:30 mark and a few just cracking one minute, this is an all-too-brief glimpse at a talent on the rise.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My Polaris Prize Ballot - 2018 Round One

It's that time of year again. The mid-year sweats that have nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with filling out my ballot for the first round of the Polaris Prize voting.

If you think I agonize over my personal Year-End Top 20, that's nothing compared to the second-guessing and third-listening I do to winnow down my Polaris picks. Because these selections actually have some real-world import and could lead to some cold-hard cash for one great act.

All told, there were 224 official suggestions of albums for the June 2017 - May 2018 eligibility period, and my own longlist included 39 of those titles.

I try to be internally consistent with my selections, so you'll see some overlap between the June-December 2017 period Polaris titles and my January - December 2017 longlist / Top 20 and at the end of this year you'll see the titles from January - May 2018. Though I should mention that unlike my own Top 20 where I don't consider EPs, they are eligible for the Polaris and thus there are a couple on my Polaris longlist that don't / won't make the Year-End cut, and that a few albums released in 2017 are on my Polaris list but I didn't discover them in time to consider for the 2017 calendar year.

Clear as mud??

Without further ado, here's the albums (in alphabetical order) that made my own Polaris longlist, and from which I selected my first round ballot of 5.

Allie - Nightshade
Alvvays - Antisocialites
Astral Swans - Strange Prisons
Julie Aube - Joie de vivre
Beatchild & The Slakadeliqs - Heavy Rockin' Steady
Bernice - Puff LP
Birthday Boy & Trish - Joseph
Bonjay - Lush Life
Daniel Caesar - Freudian
Chet Doxas - Rich In Symbols
Jeremy Dutcher - Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa
Faith Healer - Try
Freak Heat Waves - Beyond XXXL
Heavy Bell - By Grand Central Station
Zaki Ibrahim - The Secret Life Of Planets
Iskwe - The Fight Within
Julie & The Wrong Guys - Julie & The Wrong Guys
Pierre Kwenders - MAKANDA
L Con - Insecurities in Being
Chris LaRocca - Voila
Peggy Lee - Echo Paiting
Mauno - Tuning
Mise En Scene - Still Life On Fire
Partner - In Search of Lost Time
Rhye - Blood
Emie R. Roussel Trio - Intersections
Gabrielle Shonk - Gabrielle Shonk
Sick Boss - Sick Boss
Snotty Nose Rez Kids - The Average Savage
The Sorority - PLEDGE
Maylee Todd - Acts of Love
U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited
Victime - La femme taupe
Wares - Wares
The Weather Station - The Weather Station
Weaves - Wide Open
Charlotte Day Wilson - Stone Woman EP
Witch Prophet - The Golden Octave

And here's what I voted for:

Thursday, May 31, 2018

L CON - "The Art of Staying Tough"

I am currently mainlining the late suggestions by fellow jurors for the 2018 Polaris Prize to give them consideration before finalizing my Longlist ballot and among the contenders is this brand-new album by L CON. Insecurities in Being was released last Friday and slips in to the eligibility period under the wire.

After two full listens I can't say it will crack my Top 5, but it's certainly a strong record that has found a place on my own longlist and if I could give the award to a song and not an album, there's a case to be made for "The Art of Staying Tough." Guest vocalist Casey MQ was unknown to me before this but with this Anohni-esque turn I will definitely be keeping tabs on them. The fragility of their voice on top of the already emotionally fraught lyrics ("this heavy heart / won't go far"... "even when your insides are crumbling / and your outside's all alone") makes this a quietly devastating song.

And here's a version where L CON herself handles the vocals.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Michael Feuerstack - "Love Is All Around"


Michael Feuerstack's fourth post-Snailhouse release, Natural Weather, was released this past Friday via Forward Music Group.

There are only three tracks streaming on Bandcamp, including "Love Is All Around," the album opener. It's emblematic of what Feuerstack has been doing for decades - writing delicately heart-rending songs with as much attendance to sound as feel. Consider the ghostly accompaniment of Camille Delean on the chorus and the way their harmonies wring an extra ounce of emotion out of the words "love is all around" and how their voice ripples just like the lyrics make mention of.

"They Won't Believe You" from Snailhouse's Lies on the Prize continues to gut me a decade after it first came out and after listening to "Love Is All Around" a half-dozen times (which as of this posting is half the total spins on Soundcloud), I'm pretty certain this will be affecting me just as deeply in 2028.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Devonns - "Come Back"

For something that was dashed off, this track has some staying power. Chicago throwback soul group The Devonns apparently wrote "Come Back" in ten minutes. That's less time than I have spent listening to it as I've gone back-to-back-to-back with this tune.

As someone with a son named Isley, I may just be a pushover when it comes to a group that creates a warmth to their recording that bathes the listnere in sound and uses horns and strings to augment a bouncy tune. R.E.M's Ken Stringfellow guests on guitar and percussion and I have to wonder if that glockenspiel is him.

The Come Back b/w Think I'm Falling In Love 7in drops June 8th via Record Kicks but can be heard below or found on the label's Record Kicks 15th compilation

And FYI, it's pronounced "De-vaughns," for when you're recommending this group to a friend.

Witch Prophet - "Time Traveler ft. Lido Pimienta"

Pretty sure it was Nik from The Precious Lo's who first tipped me off to Witch Prophet. Basically anything tangentially related to long-time RR faves TPL is worth a listen and this is the case with this fantastic Toronto spiritual soul act (Ayo Leilani on vocals and DJ Sun Sun on production)

When I first meant to post this entry, the Bandcamp stream was limited to just a couple singles including the fire collab with Lido Pimienta below, but the record came out last Friday and it can be streamed / purchased in its entirety now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Magnificent Tape Band - "Black Tiger"

The Magnificent Tape Band are the alter egos of ATA Records founders Neil Innes & Pete Williams, who were the creative driving force behind last years debut album by The Sorcerers

Certainly Innes & Williams are the masterminds behind TMTB but the beating heart of "Black Tiger" is vocalist Rachel Modest on whose reedy pipes this stellar throwback soul-track dips and swoops.