Chung & Cotola Chung Shui II Montréal, QC Self-Released RIYL: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib; Cities Aviv; lounging in a smokey basement
The follow up to 2021’s Chung Shui, Chung Shui II is a masterclass in collaboration, featuring two artists whose distinct styles bring out the very best in one another.
Across the record, rapper Chung’s savvy lyrical street sense meshes incredibly well with producer Cotola’s dusty throwback digs. Cotola’s heavily sample-based instrumentals place little-to-no emphasis on percussion, a small but significant decision that is felt as the resulting music snakes like a puff of smoke and hangs in the air, permeating everything (“You Know I Gotta”). This choice has a staggering effect, giving each song a relaxed feel that lets Chung bask in a loose flow that beams cool, collected confidence (especially on “Set the Tone”). It’s a kind of confidence built on trust between the artists, and one that’s evinced in the freedom and playfulness of the material.
CELL DETH Demo Sewercide Records Charlottetown, PEI RIYL: Antibodies; lo-fi hardcore punk; ringing in your ears
If you need any further proof that Charlottetown is still one of Canada’s most active and interesting punk scenes, look no further than CELL DETH! This hardcore punk quartet formed out of the ashes of the much loved, and much lauded Antibodies, and underrated powerviolence duo UNCLE.
Blink and you’ll miss this demo that clocks in at just over four whole minutes. In that time they pack in six ragers that are biting, funny, and vital. These songs tackle greed, body autonomy, global warming– among other topics– with blinding urgency (“Pickpocket”), and ring out like political anthems (“Who’s Choice”). Such a promising start from a band with hopefully much more to say.
If you’ve been following us for some time, this theme might feel a little like déjà vu. Ten issues ago, in November 2021, we published “Reviews.” As a theme, it was born out of pragmatism— we had just relaunched and resumed our publishing activities, having just opened up subscriptions to the public two months prior. We didn’t have enough funds to publish what we previously had in terms of length and format of articles per issue, but it was important for us to continue with our editorial calendar as planned, in order to build the momentum we were hoping for with the relaunch. So, we took what money we had and put it toward publishing 12 capsule reviews and a scene report.
The resulting issue was significant for another reason: it marked the end of New Feeling regularly publishing album reviews in favour of dedicating our efforts to longer-form writing. With that, we wanted to find other creative and engaging ways to present our music criticism, like Group Chat.
We’ve always wanted to deviate from the norm when it comes to our writing, but as much as that intent has been in the back of our minds since day one, it has also taken time for us to find our editorial voice. The more we home in on what that is, the easier it becomes to make deviations, to play with form, and find the “new” along the way.
The moment I became Features Editor, I knew I wanted to revisit the “Reviews” theme. All of the themes we’ve explored so far are ideas that make sense to come back to over time and this theme in particular offers us an opportunity to not only breathe new life into an older idea, but stray from our rhythms to focus directly on the music that’s moving each of us right now, shining a light on some records we really care about.
I’m joined this month by a great lineup of writers talking about records from across the country, including Daniel G Wilson, Laura Stanley, Leslie Ken Chu, Tabassum Siddiqui, and Tom Beedham, as well as fellow organizing members Rosie Long Decter and Sarah Chodos making their first appearances in an issue of New Feeling. We also have Toronto-based freelance writer Kayla Higgins contributing for the first time.
Beyond the momentary return of the mighty capsule review, this issue also includes two long-form reviews, from writers Daniel G Wilson and Sarah Chodos, revisiting two older records, Blaxäm’s Kiss My Afro (1998), and The Hidden Cameras’ The Smell Of Our Own (2003). Each of these “Deep Digs” come with their own critical eye and point of view, contextualizing the records in a way that brings conversation around these records into the present. Additionally, Tom Beedham plays with the concept of what even constitutes a review with his feature on Resonance Gathering, a new LP documenting the large-scale interpretations of composer Pauline Oliveros’ score “To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation” (1970).
I’m very excited to return to this theme and all that it entails. I hope that this can be something New Feeling does often… maybe annually? Now, more than ever, it feels important for journalistic outlets to be self-reflective in our practices.
It feels appropriate to introduce myself as the newest Features Editor at New Feeling with the theme of the issue being “Movement,” where we’re embracing fluidity, change, and the power that can come from passing from one phase into the next.
I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunity, and to be working with such an excellent team of people. I might be responsible for arranging meetings or interfacing with freelancers, but it is a collective effort and we would not be here at Issue 14(!) without it. Recently we’ve changed our processes to more equally distribute the labour within editorial, so that everyone involved is responsible for bringing an issue to fruition through the editing process.
Sometimes a theme like “Habit,” my first official issue as Features Editor, arrives at the Editorial working group meeting with a nice bow on it— perfectly packaged with a great pitch. Other times, a theme jumps right out at us. I recall everyone really connecting with the theme of “Movement” because it felt like a totally distinct avenue we hadn’t explored at all. There’s an inherent energy to it, and a physicality that balances out how cerebral or contemplative other themes like “Prospect” or “Legacy” are.
The three pieces in this issue do an excellent job of building on that theme and delivering on its exciting promise.
With dance music being such a worldwide phenomenon and economy unto itself, it’s easy to lose sight of its origins. First time contributor Aurora Sol pulls focus to the queer history and enduring struggles at the heart of electronic dance music through the lens of Toronto-based DJ Blackcat, who emerged in the early 90s and has remained a force ever since. The shape of dance music today was guided by people like him, and it’s important to not lose sight of this.
If you haven’t noticed by now, co-op co-founder Daniel G. Wilson is extremely passionate about rock music. Daniel breathes new life into the Generation Wise feature with that passion, sitting down with musicians Jennelle Lewis (Camille Léon), and Chris Murdoch (Souvenir), to talk about their experiences as Black punks in so-called Canada. The three discuss what brought them to punk music initially, facing the erasure of Black people from punk history and scenes, as well as the work they’re doing to correct that harm.
Co-founder Tom Beedham closes out the issue speaking with musician and arts administrator, Shawn Petsche, about his latest project, Trickle Down Music— a growing, free, online resource aimed at independent musicians who do not have access to resources like management, or PR. As streams of funding like grants have had entire industries of gatekeepers and barriers emerge around them, Tom reports how Trickle Down Music could help level the playing field and even challenge how those current systems function.
Change can be a difficult thing to live with, especially when it’s unexpected or sudden, but with “Movement” we want to highlight how dynamic and vital change can really be, and the people that drive it.
Navigating ADHD, addiction recovery, and the music industry
As told to: Michael Rancic | Art by: Michael Rancic
For this issue we were approached by a musician who wanted to tell their story navigating the profession, addiction, and ADHD. They are not a writer, and felt most comfortable publishing this story anonymously, so the New Feeling editorial working group decided to structure this as an as-told-to style piece. This story was born out of several conversations and has been edited for structure and length.
When you’re starting out as a musician, there’s this myth that if you play often enough, and if you meet the right people, you are going to get discovered. The rest will just fall into place. That might have been how things happened back in the day, but the industry is very different now. Yet so much of the job still involves meeting people and being liked. When so much of that activity takes place in bars, it’s so easy to get carried away.
At 27, I woke up in the hospital with a kidney infection as a result of being incredibly dehydrated. I’d become addicted to not just alcohol, but nightlife, and the ways I felt like this lifestyle was helping to forward my career as a musician. Drinking alcohol and partying had become my life, and up until that point I was unaware of how it was affecting me. It’s almost cliché that another rockstar trope, “the 27 club,” is what snapped me out of a harmful pattern that was destroying my body, my brain, and my chances at having any actual success in this field. Unlearning those patterns and working to develop new ones has been essential to recovering from my addiction, developing my career, building my friendships, and living with ADHD.
I started playing open-mic nights in bars when I was 25 years old. There were a couple happening every week in my hometown. They quickly became what my entire week revolved around: I would start on Tuesday and then wake up on Wednesday hungover, and then on Thursday do it all over again. Then it’s the weekend. It was so easy to fall into that routine. Being a part of the nightlife scene, it just gets really mixed up with your normal life so easily.
It’s especially easy because at first, you’re meeting new people—you’re meeting bandmates, other people you want to collaborate with, potential bookers for shows—and you’re making music. It’s a fruitful period for making those first steps as a musician. Starting your night at 9 p.m. and going until 2 a.m. just becomes another part of your job. Most of all, it was fun. For the longest time you think, “Oh, I’m just a fun gal and I’m just having the best time being social, and I’m getting these work opportunities. This is great.” But the thing is, because I wasn’t doing the administrative work, the grant writing, and going to actual showcases, I was just wasting my time for many years.
I was talking to other artists who’d tell me that they don’t drink or smoke, and that they go to bed at 11 p.m., who were doing really well for themselves career-wise. But I never made the connection, or saw them make the transition to that lifestyle from the one that I was living. That’s the work that’s less visible, and more difficult to romanticize than staying out all night because it goes unseen. Frankly, it’s also boring and difficult.
Before I was admitted to the hospital for my kidney infection, friends were calling me to check in on me and I was like, “That’s weird,” but I didn’t think much about it. Even my family was worried. The hospital visit was truly my first wake-up call. I remember realizing that I was hungover every day. I was going into work hungover, and not being hungover was a special treat. After the infection, I really started to take inventory of my life and realized I could die.
Having a support system of friends that still want to be my friends even though I stopped partying like I used to, and who aren’t immediately judgmental about it, was so important to my recovery. The people who didn’t understand why I wasn’t still staying out all night on a Wednesday all dropped like flies. The friends that I have in my life today are there for the right reasons and not just there to enable their own behavior.
From family, friends and therapy, I am so lucky to have the support I do. But I also saw how my addiction was affecting my passion, which really helped motivate me to make the change. Even when I knew there was something wrong with me, I didn’t want to change right away. If I didn’t have music, I don’t know where I would be.
Trading one addiction for another
Music quickly became my primary motivation through recovery. I saw how drinking and partying were obstacles in the way of meeting my goals as a musician, but I didn’t realize that I was trading one addiction for another. I became hyper-focused on my career.
From songwriting to grants to releasing my first EP, I started breaking my career down into manageable goals. I think doing that really helped me understand the industry much better. At the same time, I was living off of the thrill of meeting submission deadlines, the high reward of having one of my applications approved somewhere, and finally making money doing what I love.
It wasn’t until later that I learned that I was chasing that feeling of reward because, as someone with ADHD, I have a dopamine deficiency. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that correlates to learning, motivation, and pleasure. This deficiency was causing me to overwork, because I was constantly seeking and anticipating that next rush of dopamine, and that was leading to panic attacks—I was getting one almost every day. That really damaged me in a lot of ways, and I went through a period where I was depressed for two years.
It took four years from my original hospitalization to getting an ADHD diagnosis. I was going from panic attacks to thinking I have anxiety, to depression, and so on. Each step is its own answer in a way, and helps provide clarity, but it’s a process. I’m not even certain my ADHD is my final answer. But so far it has helped me the most to know that I have ADHD. It’s a positive journey, but not one that happens in a straight line.
With ADHD especially, I’ve found a lot of like-minded people through the industry. It is a fun job: we get to tour, we get to travel. Our days are never the same. So it’s structured in a way to be very rewarding for people like us.
My collaborator also has ADHD, and has known since childhood. It’s nice to be around someone that found all of my behaviour normal. We’ve helped each other through our rejection-sensitive dysphoria. We help each other through a lot of things that we go through just because we’re the same.
navigating ‘the myth’ from the other side
When I was over-working, I was doing quite well for myself career-wise. Even though I was burning out, a lot of people started seeing me as this really dependable person, and I didn’t want to let them down. My best friend said, “Oh, I get so inspired by you. You’re so organized. Wow, look at all the things you’ve accomplished in music.” It was too much.
I struggle with maintaining healthy routines, mental health, my addiction, and they don’t see the work that goes into what I do. It takes constant maintenance because now I understand that my default is not being organized, calm, or sitting still. It’s being impulsive and chaotic and chasing that adrenaline and dopamine. Now I only take on projects that speak to me so that I can maintain a healthier relationship to my work.
Routine has been extremely important in my healing. I need to have a system in place so that I can be a functional human being. For me, I’ve also had to accept that being a professional musician isn’t just about having fun all of the time. It’s gonna be boring and I just embrace that it’s boring. Both recovery and being a musician involve doing a lot of the work that is not romanticized in the musician mythos.
I’m at a stage in my life where I feel good. The best way to describe it is that I feel like I’m actually healing my nervous system, and maybe that’s why I feel I use the word “boring” a lot—because I do feel bored sometimes— because it is very quiet and it’s peaceful. So that’s how I feel right now—I feel at peace and I feel like things are falling into place.
I’m not sober, but my relationship with alcohol has changed. I’ve worked with my therapist to find a solution that works for me. I don’t seek it as a coping mechanism anymore. Now I prioritize having fun with friends and people that I trust in my life. And if that means the planets align and I’m staying up until five in the morning, then it happens. But it’s very rare now, because I also prioritize going to bed or going for supper with friends instead of “Oh, let’s go out.” That fills my cup just as much as when I was hanging out with people that didn’t care about me back in the day. Now I have the energy to go on tour for three weeks and I have the energy to actually do the things that I want to do.
purpose and understanding
I had to trip and fall a bunch of times to figure out how to get to where I am. Understanding my ADHD and addiction has certainly changed my relationship to my art, but it has also given more purpose to it. When you’re writing grants and you’re having to constantly explain why you’re making art, it also makes you realize why you’re doing this.
I have to plan my creative moments. I’ve been learning to channel my impulsive instincts into my art—that’s the beauty of being an artist; you get to be impulsive in so many different ways. When you’re performing live, you get to be a little bit impulsive; when you’re creating you get to be impulsive in the sense that you can write whatever you want, you can do whatever you want creatively. There are still so many aspects of my job that I love, and where I can be myself.
Watching musicians and music journalists congratulate someone who landed an editorial job at Spotify is a moment from last year that will stick with me for a long time. The announcement arrived on Twitter less than a month after artists like Santigold and Animal Collective canceled their respective tours, citing that it would be impossible for them to recoup their costs if they went ahead. It was hard to not feel nauseated seeing the wave of congratulations with this recent news in my mind — the dissonance between the kindness on display and the worsening conditions of our industry was truly bizarre to witness.
Why are we congratulating this?
Opportunities for journalists in this country are few and far between, and only diminishing. For many, the Spotify gig is a rare chance to be able to do what we do best for a living, and actually have our work affect the lives of artists and the tastes of fans alike. Spotify Canada says they have 11 million users — what music publication in Canada has that kind of reach? What music publication in Canada pays a living wage to do it? You’d be a fool to not try for that job.
What happens when that living wage is made possible by exploiting the very artists you’d be using that platform to champion? In an ideal situation, our work can help turn people on to new music, feature emerging artists, shine a light on the vital work happening within communities, and help provide context for the music that people fall in love with each day. What do our words, respective tastes, or areas of expertise even matter if ultimately the result of that work contributes to the further devaluing of music as an art form, and further marginalization of musicians in our country?
Figures from Comparably estimate that a Spotify editor makes somewhere in the realm of $79,000 USD a year (around $105,370 CAD). Spotify claims it doesn’t pay artists/rights holders per stream, but instead by their “streamshare” in a given month (the monthly percentage of streams that their work accounts for in their country), so the per stream rate actually fluctuates. But whether the service pays out $0.003 or $0.005 USD per stream, focusing on that number feels like splitting hairs — or pennies — it’s a fraction of what those artists should be paid for their work. By those rates, it would take roughly over 26 million streams for an artist to make equivalent to that paid editor staff position at the tech company. Even at a more modest $50,000 USD a year (around $66,700 CAD), an artist would need over 16 million streams to reach that sum. To put that in perspective: an artist clearing that much in royalties from the streaming service would require more than one play per registered Spotify user in the country, which is a kind of ubiquity most artists that we spotlight here at New Feeling only dream about. And that’s just for one job. Spotify has an entire editorial team, not to mention all of the coders and other staff who keep the tech company afloat.
Let me be clear: this critique is not an indictment of the person who took the job, others who’ve made the same choice before them, or the people who congratulated them. As journalists, we’ve been put in an untenable position where the only choices afforded to us to be able to do what we love is to do so at someone else’s expense. This struggle is an issue we all have to navigate, but one that I’m hopeful we can begin to navigate together.
Last month, Spotify proved just how necessary and urgent it is to understand how these struggles are intertwined when CEO Daniel Ek announced a company-wide restructuring, laying off 6% of their staff worldwide. That figure translates to roughly 600 workers, including editors and coders. Though still operating at a loss in terms of yearly revenue, this series of layoffs, along with news of a promising close to 2022 (thanks to a spike in earnings and member growth), spurred a rise in the company’s stocks, their best day on the market in a year. Shareholders come before employees and musicians alike, all because the platform paid too much for Joe Rogan’s podcast. Can you imagine who will bear the brunt of things if artists are ever in a position to negotiate higher rates from Spotify in the future? It won’t be the shareholders. This hierarchy is exactly how capitalism and competition sow division between workers who can and should be organizing alongside one another. This current restructuring is part of an industry-wide trend amongst tech and media behemoths like Amazon, Google, and VoxMedia who are all cutting costs through their workforce, despite performing well in 2022.
Stay respectable, stay employable
Respectability demands that we congratulate the peer who nabbed a rare gig, even if that job is inherently bound up in the extractive policies that make our profession harder and harder to do, because how polite and agreeable we seem affects our own employability. A nice smile and “congrats” to the person who has their hands in your pockets fishing around for cash is both a survival tactic and a coping mechanism. That’s not to say that the congratulations in this case were insincere — we all want to see our peers do well — but these kinds of interactions, especially highly visible ones on social media platforms like Twitter, are invariably tied up in the politics of the insecure working conditions that dominate the lives of musicians and journalists alike.
In “Never Employable Enough: The (Im)possibility of Satisfying the Boss’s Desire” Ciara Cremin writes about how the scarcity of good, well paying work coerces workers to adjust their behaviours in line with the expectations of an imaginary “spectral” boss. “Because we cannot afford to rely for our satisfactions on employment in a single company given the perceived insecurity of labour, desire cannot be directed to appeal to the desire of one boss in particular. To remain in contention for jobs and promotions we seek the approval of a generalized boss, a non-existent big Boss: a spectre of capitalism: the spectral boss.” Cremin, a critical theorist based in New Zealand, points to the means-testing of unemployment benefits like welfare as an example of how this notion of a universal, omnipresent boss is reinforced.
When it was being distributed, part of the qualifications for receiving CERB involved applicants confirming that they were actively looking for work, and that they were not turning down legitimate opportunities for employment. Applicants were also required to have made at least $1,000 in the previous tax year, barring anyone facing unemployment prior to COVID-19 from using CERB, and later CRB, as support that they could leverage to change their situation. In determining whether or not we were even worthy of receiving financial aid, that worth was rooted in our capacity to generate wealth as workers, not in our wellbeing as people.
Within this panoptic and precarious dynamic, scarcity breeds further anxiety about our own employability, forcing us to fixate on how we can improve ourselves in the eyes of our spectral boss. “Rather than the structural relations that determine employment, it is the worker who becomes the cause for disappointing employment histories: she has to overcome herself if her prospects are to improve,” Cremin writes. Our gaze turns inward to self-improvement, blinding us to the structural relations that really determine and shape our employability. These fears are legitimate — work is hard to come by — putting us in a double bind where it makes social and professional sense to congratulate someone on taking a job we’re all well aware is making things actively worse.
Cremin’s observations are echoed by Amelia Horgan in Lost in Work: Escaping Capitalism. “Today’s workers are expected to excise the scalpel on their own personalities. Productivity, once primarily a question of national statistics, becomes an ethos, guided by apps and hacks designed to make you the best possible version of yourself,” Horgan writes. “Of course, this process of optimization can yield results that are positive, that feel fulfilling, but the question of what we are self-optimizing in service of can’t be answered without reference to the diminishing chances of securing a job.” I’m currently looking for full-time or part-time work and making a habit of locking my Twitter account every time I fire off another application, even though I largely use it to share my professional accomplishments and published work. The instinct to hide that part of myself comes from uncertainty of whom I’m actually trying to appeal to. That lack of specificity makes us all work harder to find creative ways to become appealing and likable.
As Cremin notes above, this inward, self-critical gaze and preoccupation with surveillance and self-improvement also creates barriers toward seeing and understanding the structures that actually shape our work and how capitalism socially constructs our relationships to other people. These barriers also sap time, energy, and perspective away from organizing around our labour and actively make doing so undesirable. If you’re underpaid, underemployed, and under the assumption that the problem is you, what incentive is there to band together with your competition? And if you do eventually land a job, any job, we’ve seen in recent high profile cases at Amazon and Starbucks that starting a union could be grounds for dismissal. But for the working conditions of journalists and musicians to improve, we need to work in league and build solidarity together.
What can solidarity look like?
To even imagine a world where it’s actually frowned upon to be taking a job that actively hurts, marginalizes, and exploits others’ art and ideas, we first need to nurture solidarity, and that begins with understanding what solidarity actually means. Solidarity is a relationship built on the foundations of reciprocity, sympathy, and mutual support. It’s that relationship that becomes the basis for collective action.
We can strengthen that relationship by recognizing our commonalities. We share this “spectral boss,” which shapes and determines so much of our actions and behaviours, not just in the music industry but for all working class people. All of us live under and are influenced by white supremacy, settler-colonialism, and capitalism. All of us are subject to the skyrocketing costs of living, housing unaffordability, and conservative governments that are forwarding agendas of austerity that gut social programs and assistance. Professionally, we work from project to project, are underpaid for our work, and often have to chase clients for months to be paid. The work we create itself is used to generate wealth for multinational corporations, venture/vulture capitalists, landlords, real estate investment firms, and tech companies. The conditions of that work often force us to put our own health and wellbeing at risk because getting sick means not getting paid. If journalists are not approaching our work with this understanding of our interdependence and the intersectional forms of oppression that relate our struggles with that of artists and musicians, then there is no point in doing it. When our writing focuses on artistic merit alone, it obscures the political contexts that led to the creation of the music.
It’s also important to recognize our differences. One of the reasons why there isn’t a stronger sense of solidarity between journalists and musicians right now is because there is an imbalance in this relationship that engenders mistrust. I see this often manifested as “if you’re not a musician, you shouldn’t write about music,” a sentiment I obviously disagree with, but one that I can’t blame musicians for harboring. If I were a musician and saw journalists fawning over jobs at Spotify when I can’t afford to even tour, I wouldn’t trust us either. I would also be skeptical of efforts to unionize, like the Apple Together movement at Apple, or the Alphabet Workers’ Union and striking Youtube Music/Cognizant workers, when the unionization literature makes no mention of either company’s exploitative policies around compensating artists for their work. Music journalists, our editors, and publication owners hold so much sway over the lives and livelihoods of the artists we write about (even the ones we choose not to). We need to acknowledge that imbalance, and in doing so, take it upon ourselves to build that trust by understanding how our struggles are linked, and approach our work through that lens.
Dr. Anita Varma, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Media at UT Austin, leads the Solidarity Journalism Initiative, which supports journalists to improve coverage of marginalized communities and resists the notion that journalists can, or should, be neutral in their reporting. The Initiative has prepared a very helpful guide on Solidarity Journalism in practice. Varma writes: “Solidarity in journalism means that journalists stand for basic human dignity and against suffering, and is practiced through newsworthiness judgments, sourcing, and framing that center the lived experiences of people subjected to unjust conditions. The decision to report – or not report – on these conditions inherently leaves neutrality behind.”
Ultimately the greatest way to build solidarity is through action. We must align ourselves with the political causes of artists, for instance: refusing to attend or cover shows that take place at venues and festivals where management takes a cut of merch costs, in line with Cadence Weapon’s #MyMerch Campaign. We can refuse to attend or cover shows at venues and festivals that are not physically accessible for our disabled colleagues. We can refuse to attend or cover shows at venues and festivals without masking policies in place, because we know they create a higher risk of COVID-19 infection and isolate immunocompromised people from our scenes, and we know that pandemic denial is directly related to the affordability crisis pushing artists and creatives out of urban centres.
Together, we can resist precarity. In the same way that sharing pay rates with one another increases our collective ability to bargain for fairer compensation, finding commonality through the exploitative nature of our work helps build empathy and collective power. Invariably the only way forward is through bold steps like divesting ourselves from streaming services like Spotify entirely, but for that or other initiatives like a general strike to be successful, they require solidarity.
This one is particularly exciting for us because its release marks a new milestone: we are now 100% reader and member funded.
From the beginning of this project, we didn’t want to make the same mistakes we’d seen and experienced at other outlets with regard to ownership and funding, and how those complex relationships can often take precedence over, and negatively influence, the work. So as a cooperative we’ve been very adamant that however we go about funding our work and paying the writers and artists we work with, it has to be in line with our values.
We want to produce quality writing from perspectives you don’t often see or hear from in the Canadian music media landscape, and we want to pay for that work fairly. At some point during our careers, most if not all of us at New Feeling have been asked to write for free. Being able to compensate for that labour is a priority of ours exactly because we know how pervasive it is and how the unpaid labour of so many writers props up a system and model that doesn’t have their interest in mind.
This latest issue feels like a huge step in that direction, but being funded by our members poses a new challenge, which is evident in the overall size and scope of this issue. We’re only into our third month of fundraising and membership drives, and have yet to hit the funding targets we set for ourselves to be able to afford to produce the kind of work we had been doing previously out-of-pocket.
This new reality has forced us to think on our feet and be creative with how we use the funds we have. Ultimately, our Editorial working group chose to focus on record reviews as it allowed us to cast a wider net by covering and engaging with a greater number of musicians, and it allowed us to work with a greater number of freelancers. Two new freelancers appear in this issue, Montréal’s Dave MacIntyre and Yara El-Soueidi.
You’ll also see reviews from familiar names like Tom Beedham, Jesse Locke, Michael Rancic, Laura Stanley, and Daniel G. Wilson.
The real showpiece of this issue is Kaelen Bell’s scene report from Winnipeg, Manitoba, the latest instalment of our column Yes In My Backyard. We were lucky enough to work with Kaelen for our previous issue, and when it came time to commission another report from a scene that doesn’t get enough love, we knew exactly who to ask. Kaelen’s enthusiasm for Winnipeg is evident in the thoughtful way he introduces each act, and the spectrum of sounds his report covers. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did.
If you’re a regular reader or this is your first time, welcome! Either way, if you like what you’ve read, please consider subscribing to New Feeling. We rely on the support of our readers and members to continue doing this work and to help build this platform into a sustainable one.
Tush Fantast Do Right! Music Toronto, ON RIYL: Love Touch Records; Escort; Lisa Shaw
Some 40 years after it was pronounced “dead,” disco endures and is just as relevant today thanks to artists who understand the style’s transformative power. The opulence of the typically rich vocals, basslines, and arrangements can alter any regular checkerboard dance floor into a lavish and unforgettable dream. Toronto’s Tush draw on this power with their modern take on the sound, wielding it with an aspirational and motivational point of view.
With its encouraging bass and drums, “Don’t Be Afraid” anchors the record through both its original version and as a reprise on the second half. “There’s always time,” vocalist Kamilah Apong assures early on, as buzzing electronics offer an unsettling counterpoint, like drifting doubt. But her voice cuts through the uncertainty, and the live instrumentation (led by Tush’s other half, Jamie Kidd) rises in supportive response. Layer after layer the song builds to a decadent crescendo, as a chorus of voices repeat the song’s title, urging Apong to vamp it up and show off her vocal range.
The record is full of moments like these, where irresistible grooves meet thoughtful lyrical affirmation. Those highs are made all the more impactful by recordings Apong made of family members in Black River, Jamaica speaking to the way the songs encourage listeners to confront their challenges head-on. These interludes of personal conversation add a feeling of intimacy, strengthen the thematic backbone of the record, and give the album peaks and valleys that make it an exceptional listen.
Secret Witness Volume I Bienvenue Recordings Montréal, QC RIYL: DIANA; late night rideshares across town; Everything But the Girl
Four artists at the top of their game—house producers Gabriel Rei and Gene Tellem, pop singer/songwriter Laroie, and percussionist Pascal Deaudelin—join forces for this fruitful collaboration that sees each stretching their abilities creatively under a veil of darkness.
The bubbly bass of “Endless Nights” pulls focus quickly, letting the introspective keys establish the nocturnal mood of the quartet’s debut EP. The sustained notes give a sense of the enduring shadow that the song title alludes to and which envelops the entire record, while Laroie’s voice is chopped and looped, stuck in time.
As the material progresses, the band gels and moves away from comfort zones. The song that gives the group their name feels less rooted in house music and more in line with ’80s sophistipop, with the hand-percussion and laid back keys feeling lush and dramatic. Laroie delivers her self-reflective lyrics with a cool restraint that verges on a whisper. For a song that’s about being subsumed by feelings of jealousy, the group keeps things remarkably on the level, but in doing so they emphasize the subtle shifts in Laroie’s voice, and the way the song rises in tension as she reaches the chorus.
For only six songs, what’s exceptional and exciting about this record is hearing how well everyone connects. Whether it’s on the instrumental “Refuge,” which with its glowing keys, insistent drums, and phasing electronics, leans in to the romance of the night, or EP highlight “Influence,” which features an excellent call-and-response vocal part from Laroie and guest Kris Guilty, Volume I is brimming with sharp songwriting talent and is enough to make any listener to never want the night to end.