Group Chat: Ariane Roy; A La Una & Kimmortal

Art by: Laura Stanley | Ariane Roy photo by: Kay Milz; A La Una photo by: Lorenzo Colocado; Kimmortal photo by: Iris Chia

Welcome to New Feeling’s Group Chat. In this feature, we invite a panel of writers to give their takes on two songs selected by our editorial team, with the goal of offering a variety of perspectives of each track and discovering common threads of interest, analysis, and interpretation.

In our latest edition, Kaelen Bell, Megan LaPierre, and David MacIntyre do a triple-take of Ariane Roy’s swaggering piano-driven francophone track “Apprendre encore.” Tom Beedham, Jesse Locke, and Laura Stanley stare down the court at A La Una & Kimmortal’s thunderous anthem “On My Way.”

Check out the takes below!


Kaelen Bell: “Apprendre encore” immediately opened a wormhole to ninth grade, the kind of thing that I’d replay to death on many an early morning bus ride. Whether that’s a good or bad thing—I had pretty solid taste as a tween! Being 14 kinda sucks!—is still up in the air, but what’s certain is Ariane Roy’s refreshing disregard for the ticks of today’s pop music. A bit of ’60s Yé-Yé, a bit of Brill Building bombast, and a healthy dash of winking 2010s blog pop, “Apprendre encore” would be right at home between Grizzly Bear and Purity Ring on a 2011 BIRP! playlist. It’s certainly not anything new, but when “new” can be so uninspired, it’s kinda nice to look back for a couple minutes.

Megan LaPierre: “Encore” is a fun French double-entendre: in addition to “again,” it can translate to “still,” which semi-dramatically changes the song’s titular concept. (I had a great relatable anecdote about going to the dentist and being told I’ve been brushing my teeth wrong.) But “still” makes more sense sonically, since “Apprendre encore” suspends itself in mid-air with a bubble bath of guitar fuzz. Roy’s use of the ’50s doo-wop progression and a steady piano bounce give the song a retro-tinged aesthetic familiarity, like you might be hearing it encore—perhaps it could have played after “Operator” by Shiloh on a MuchMusic VideoFlow of yesteryear.

David MacIntyre: On this tune, the so-called queen of “sad dancing” muses about recognizing her character flaws and admitting she’s a work in progress. “Apprendre encore” (French for “still learning”) is a piano-driven, fairly straightforward indie-pop tune by the Quebec City native. Its sprightly instrumentation complements her higher register, and traces of indie, pop, soul, and jazz—she counts Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday among her influences—can definitely be heard, with a sprinkling of electric guitars in between. This song is pretty standard singer-songwriter fare, but it’s nonetheless a pleasant one that deftly showcases Roy’s talents, and it’ll feel right at home for fans of other francophone artists like Ariane Moffatt, Lydia Képinski, and Hubert Lenoir.

Tom Beedham: Living in the same city as producers Romeo Candido and Lex Junior, I’ve followed their evolution since retroactively happening upon the Santa Guerrilla project they belonged to and tracing their work through DATU. Abandoning that name for its patriarchal connotations (datu means “tribal chieftain”) and starting fresh (the group’s website explains A La Una means “back at one”), it’s exciting to hear the pair return with a track that channels kulintang gongs, distorted beats, and sirens for a sound that could fill blocks in the process, but it’s guest feature Kimmortal who steals the spotlight here. Rapping from a perspective of underestimation, flows like “Imma punch up, up, up / Underrated, underdog / I’m under the radar, above / I’m up and down and all around” roll off their tongue and land like a self-actualizing verbal Konami Code, begging to be contended with and disorienting challengers in the space of one breath.

Jesse Locke: A La Una were formerly known as DATU, a group fusing traditional Filipino instrumentation with modern pop flourishes. They maintain a hint of that sound in the beat for their latest song, “On My Way,” embedding chiming kulintang percussion within thumping drums and wailing sirens. Rapper Kimmortal joins the duo on this aspirational jock jam, entering the pantheon of songs about playing basketball when you’re not very tall (slide over, Skee-Lo and Aaron Carter). They sound ready to dunk on the competition with their first burst of braggadocio: “Small package, but I’m sicker than your average / Spitting fire, I’m inspired by the alchemist.” It’s unclear if the pint-sized MC is shouting out another beatmaker or writing bars about transforming base metals, but either way the result is gold.

Laura Stanley: I first heard “On My Way” because of SHORTY, a short film made for the NBA’s 75th anniversary celebrations and whose trailer aired regularly during Toronto Raptors broadcasts. The pounding tenacity of A La Una and Kimmortal’s track is the teammate of a father-daughter story about a girl who’s driven to make her school’s basketball team (even though she’s shorter than everyone) and motivated by her father and his stories about the best short NBA players of all time. The determination of the film’s story is mirrored in that of “On My Way” which is flooded with focused confidence: “Tell my competition quiet on the set,” Kimmortal raps.  

Whereas I gave up my basketball career in grade 7 when a 5 foot me (I somehow made my school’s team!) saw the height of my competition, the track’s looped siren sound and thunderous energy feel like a sold-out Scotiabank Arena has my back and makes me regret not pushing myself to be a better player. As you persevere through whatever challenges you’re facing, throw on “On My Way” and be reminded that you’ve got this.

Group Chat: Hotel Dog; SÜRF

Art by: Michael Rancic | SÜRF photo by: Marcus; Hotel Dog photo provided by the band

Welcome to New Feeling’s Group Chat. In this feature, we invite a panel of writers to give their takes on two songs selected by our editorial team, with the goal of offering a variety of perspectives of each track and discovering common threads of interest, analysis, and interpretation.

To kick off Group Chat, Jordan Currie, Karen K. Tran, and Jesse Locke answer the call to offer their thoughts about the runway-ready “Telephone” by Winnipeg’s Hotel Dog, taken from the band’s bedroom pop collection, the Isolation Inn EP. Meanwhile, Reina Cowan, Sun Noor, and Tom Beedham dive into deceptively deep waters on Toronto rapper/producer SÜRF’s “Bunda,” one of six minute-long riptides from his EP, Project.wav.

Check out the takes below!


Jordan Currie: Hotel Dog’s “Telephone,” from their debut album Isolation Inn, is a jovial blend of bedroom pop, electronic, dance, and house sensibilities. The offbeat track’s lyrics show singer Charlie Baby breaking free of their anxieties and celebrating their authentic “non-binary and hot” self. “I don’t do this for you / Not even if you’re my boo,” they sing. Light and tinny vocals contrast with the meaty bass line and clanging key chords in the background. “Telephone” is the type of song that could easily be played at either a late-night house party or a posh fashion runway show.

Jesse Locke: Hotel Dog’s Charlie Baby has a gently stoned sing-song quality to their voice that immediately disarms. On “Telephone,” they reach out for affection and assurance but never sound stressed out. Riding sputtering synth grooves reminiscent of Chad VanGaalen’s DIY dance music, the non-binary singer explains that it’s all for fun: “I don’t do this for you / Not even if you’re my boo / Not a guy or gal / Just write the songs with my pal.” Like Palberta’s Lily Konigsberg, Hotel Dog makes bedroom pop that could be a bona fide hit, if the world wasn’t so crummy.

Karen K. Tran: “Telephone” is a notable addition to the bedroom pop genre. It has it all: teenage lamentations, hypnotic vocals, and a pretty groovy bass line. Hotel Dog make good use of the tools they have available and possess an attentive ear for adding the right amount of production, without overthinking it.

Hotel Dog reinforce the telephone theme not only with the sample of the “This number is no longer connected” message but also with those ’90s phone keypad tones incorporated into the beat. The key change at the end gives the song an eerie edge reminiscent of a home dial-up internet service connecting.


Tom Beedham: SÜRF was only serving up a self-described appetizer with the November release of his Project.wav collection on Bandcamp, but he’s already weary of the tedium of hip-hop’s eternal self-marketing. Summoning a scratchy violin sample and room-shaking bass to boom and weave through high-pressure systems, on “Bunda,” the artist draws a line in the sand and washes away any notion of talent scarcity, insisting they can turn it on and off like the Human Torch: “I’m so done giving out my handles / I’m like an eternal candle / Johnny Storm in this bitch like flame on.”

Reina Cowan: You don’t often hear this type of instrumentation on hip-hop songs, but it works. The strings and percussion on “Bunda” give this track an international funkiness that refreshingly breaks out of the moody, dark, sing-rap sound that Toronto has become known for. Production-wise, “Bunda” has an demo-esque rawness to it. On a track with a 1:11 runtime, this style fits perfectly. Lyrically, lines like “Only ever here to raise the bar higher / Turn up, make the girls go, ‘Ahh yeah’ / Sauce like this is hard to come by, eh” feel like a good dose of solid (if a little simple) hip-hop bravado. There are some cleverly placed comic book, video game, and film references on this track and throughout SÜRF’s whole Project.wav record. See if you can catch ’em all. The punchy energy on “Bunda” makes it a strong introduction to SÜRF’s catalogue, making me want to hear more from this intriguing new artist.

Sun Noor: Fusing new sounds with the old and being open to new approaches during the creative process enables the creation of timeless music. SÜRF encapsulates that energy through his track “Bunda,” off his eclectic first release, Project.wav. With all six songs amounting to a minute or less, SÜRF redefines what an artist’s initial release should capture. “Bunda” is undoubtedly one of the stronger tracks off this project, given the beat’s infectious, violin-heavy instrumentation that is reminiscent of Sudanese jazz. SÜRF captures how letting go of a perfectionist mentality allowed him to embark on his newfound musical journey with ease.

Our Favourite Songs of 2021

Art by: Michael Rancic

“These last two years have felt like the longest pre-drink in recent history,” writes Leslie Ken Chu in one of his contributions to the list below, and it’s difficult to disagree. As we enter another period of uncertainty with the mutating strains of a worldwide virus, prolonged by governments who refuse to put the safety of people before profit, it can feel like we’ll never escape this space of transitional purgatory before the party starts up again. Thankfully, live music returned in some capacity in 2021, as artists of all genres continued to share the fruits of their creative efforts, offering small doses of joy, catharsis, and resilience in a deeply strange time. The industry-backed artists receiving the lion’s share of mainstream music coverage in so-called “Canada” might still be hard to differentiate from the curated mediocrity of streaming service playlists, but we hope these hand-picked suggestions turn you on to a few songs that you may have never heard before. For the second year running, read on and press play through an unranked list in reverse alphabetical order followed by our personal top picks.

The Halluci Nation – “Tanokumbia” feat. El Dusty, Black Bear Singers (self-released | Ottawa, ON / Corpus Christi, Texas / Manawan, QC)


A Tribe Called Red technically released “Tanokumbia” in 2019, but its inclusion on this year’s One More Saturday Night—the group’s debut as the Halluci Nation and one necessarily concerned with generating space for rebirth—is plenty ground for consideration in a year desperately in need of a hard reset. Swirling in from a place of quiet, loss, and abyss, the carnivalesque opening notes sound subterranean before they’re fully clarified. Building from a fevered free reed melody, new elements percolate slowly, the Black Bear Singers’ powwow calls and El Dusty’s nu-cumbia dembow struts throbbing with resilience, connections in resistance recognized, reflected, reimagined. (Tom Beedham)

The Body and BIG|BRAVE – “Oh Sinner” (Thrill Jockey | Portland, OR / Montréal, QC)


“Oh Sinner” swaggers like a cowboy on horseback, with the kind of slow-rolling confidence that clears dusty main streets and casts long shadows on canyon walls. It’s not exactly a country song, but its punishing folk-rock shakes and stomps with some of the genre’s old-world grit, a legend that echoes through the hills. The highlight of the Body and BIG|BRAVE’s weighty collaborative record, Leaving None but Small Birds, “Oh Sinner” transmutes the two groups’ experimental corrosion into a lumbering piece of folklore—it’s not entirely clear where it’s headed, but you’d best get out of the way. (Kaelen Bell)

OMBIIGIZI – “Residential Military” (Arts & Crafts | London, ON / Toronto, ON)


Anishinaabe artists Adam Sturgeon (Status/Non-Status) and Daniel Monkman (Zoon) come out of the gates hot on the first single from their collaborative project OMBIIGIZI. With a classic indie-rock sound reminiscent of Pinback, Sturgeon tackles a deeply personal topic of the residential-school-to-military pipeline followed by his grandfather. Conjuring evocative imagery of a birch-bark canoe paddling down the freeway, he introduces the concept of “Indigenous Futurisms”—looking back to wisdoms of the past to imagine a brighter horizon. (Jesse Locke)

Narcy & Thanks Joey – “Jeff Bezos” (We Are the Medium | Montréal, QC / Los Angeles CA)

With (now ex-)Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in his sights, Iraqi-Canadian rapper Narcy punches up however he can, but resistance still feels futile, deflated. He claims to “rock the black mask like Space Ghost,” but the cartoonish atmosphere producer-collaborator Thanks Joey has spun together weighs the action down to the black-and-white class divide of hard-boiled noir—the muted, repeated sigh of a trombone embodying the anti-glamour in all its monotony. “This part of history will be cancelled,” a spoken sample declares at the track’s close. No doubt. (Tom Beedham)

Mustafa – “Stay Alive” (Regent Park Songs | Toronto, ON)

“Stay Alive,” the opening track of Mustafa’s When Smoke Rises, introduces listeners to the grief that floods the entire album. The debut record from Mustafa is delivered gently—the singer-songwriter, poet, and filmmaker describes his music as “inner city folk songs.” But When Smoke Rises is shaped by the violence in Mustafa’s home, Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood (Canada’s largest and oldest social housing development), and the deaths of his friends, and is full of thunderous emotions. On “Stay Alive,” Mustafa, over the soft tread of a running guitar melody, urges, “just stay alive, stay alive, stay alive.” It’s a simple refrain, but much like the album itself, it holds enormous weight. (Laura Stanley)

Debby Friday – “Runnin” (self-released | Vancouver, BC)


“Runnin” ramps up over 45 seconds of incantatory backmasked vocals before the beat drops like a heart monitor rhythm from Kurupt FM. As the song swells into a vaporous mass of drums, whispers, and distant squeals, it becomes what U.K. post-punk group This Heat might have described as music like escaping gas. Rather than alternating between dynamic passages, this ominous loosie released in February simply sets a pace of simmering menace and filters out until the valve is shut off. Debby Friday vocally struts over the bleeps, oozing with confidence and unafraid of whatever shadowy figures linger just outside of the frame. (Jesse Locke)

Club Sofa – “M.E.L.T.” (self-released | Vancouver, BC)

Content warning: sexual assault


The pain of deep-rooted trauma wells up on Club Sofa’s “M.E.L.T.” Though known for the catchy, swaying finesse of their self-described “emo surf,” the band of jazz students lean into the burning anger of their harder-edged influences like Bikini Kill and the Stooges.

“M.E.L.T.” cycles through the shame, self-blame, and self-pity that are the lingering vestiges of sexual assault. The narrator feels sullied, like they’re a burden to others. “I’ve been so unclean / I dirty up your sheets,” singer/rhythm guitarist Payton Hansen sings before worrying, “If I never get better / Will you still stay forever?” She also laments, “I never win / But who’s really keeping score?” When the damage is immeasurable and ever-changing, though, it’s hard to define personal victories. But by confronting her past, Hansen can chalk one up for herself. (Leslie Ken Chu)

Cartel Madras – “WORKING” (Royal Mountain/Sub Pop | Calgary, AB)


Sister rap duo Cartel Madras dropped their intoxicating hip house track “WORKING” at precisely the right time—these last two years have felt like the longest pre-drink in recent history. Returning collaborator Jide curates hypnotic late-night vibes as the song runs the lifespan of a party, from an uncoordinated rendezvous (“Hey, I’ve been here for like 20 minutes. Where are you?”) to messy quarrels (“Yeah, she was just talking shit about me, in front of him. Yeah, no, she’s a huge bitch.”) “WORKING” perfectly captures that feeling of reveling in the heat of the night that’s so sorely missed. (Leslie Ken Chu)

Brittany Kennell – “Clean Break” (Agence Ranch | Montréal, QC)

Brittany Kennell’s debut LP I Ain’t A Saint was a spark of joy in an otherwise wretched year. The Montréal-based country artist (and The Voice alumna) writes catchy and clever songs that often soundtrack situations so distinct that you didn’t even realize that a song about them was missing. Do you distract yourself from the present by grabbing a sponge and scrubbing every surface of your home? Cue “Clean Break,” a lemon-scented break-up tune about doing chores so you don’t think about an ex. Even though sadness lingers in the corners of “Clean Break,” Kennell makes this song shine. (Laura Stanley)

Amos the Kid – “Island of Troubles” (House of Wonders | Winnipeg, MB)


If Dolly and Kenny’s “Islands in the Stream” is love at its softest and most saccharine—chiffon-draped and bathed in sunlight, a breezy walk on some dream-world beach—then Amos the Kid’s “Island of Troubles” marks the moment when the wind picks up and waves start crashing faster than your flip-flops can carry you to safety. A frayed, sand-kicking duet with Yes We Mystic‘s Jensen Fridfinnson, “Island of Troubles” is all push-and-pull, an acid-tongued barn-burner that finds catharsis in the hurt. “You destroy my house,” Amos Nadlersmith deadpans before the song cuts out—play it loudly enough and you might destroy your own. (Kaelen Bell)

Laura Stanley
Ada Lea – “Damn”
Charlotte Cornfield – “Headlines”
The Weather Station – “Parking Lot”
Brittany Kennell – “Clean Break”
Mustafa – “Stay Alive”

Leslie Ken Chu
BIG|BRAVE – “Of the Ilk”
Cartel Madras – “WORKING”
Club Sofa – “M.E.L.T.”
Divorcer – “Bug”
Ducks Ltd. – “Old Times”
Kylie V – “On My Mind”
Le Ren – “I Already Love You”
Soul Boner – “SUMMER SONG”
Visibly Choked – “Mother Tongue”
Yu Su – “Xiu”

Tom Beedham
Cadence Weapon – “Play No Games”
Narcy & Thanks Joey – “Jeff Bezos”
Fucked Up – “Year of the Horse”
Breeze – “Come Around”
Kae Sun – “404 Eros”
Dorothea Paas – “Anything Can’t Happen”
The Halluci Nation – “Tanokumbia”
Fiver feat. The Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition – “Leaning Hard (On My Peripheral Vision)”
YlangYlang – “Penumbra”
Vallens – “If I Don’t”

Jesse Locke
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – “I Pity the Country”
Myriam Gendron – “Go Away From My Window”
Ducks Ltd. – “Under the Rolling Moon”
OMBIIGIZI – “Residential Military”
Dorothea Paas – “Anything Can’t Happen”
Cedric Noel – “Allies”
Debby Friday – “Runnin”
Mas Aya – “18 de Abril”
Fiver feat. The Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition – “Death Is Only a Dream”
CFCF – “Punksong”

Kaelen Bell
Cedric Noel – “Comuu”
Tired Cossack – “Machina”
Dorothea Paas – “Waves Rising”
Ada Lea – “Damn”
Marie Davidson & L’Œil Nu – “Persona”
The Body and BIG|BRAVE – “Oh Sinner”
Julien’s Daughter – “The Dealer’s Hand”
The Weather Station – “Loss”
Amos the Kid – “Island of Troubles”
Virgo Rising – “Sleep in Yr Jeans”

Cedric Noel – Hang Time

Cedric Noel
Hang Time
Joyful Noise Recordings
Montréal, QC
RIYL: Pedro the Lion; Low; late night conversations that go deep

Cedric Noel’s music has a striking sense of intimacy, like he’s performing several feet away or whispering his lyrics into your ear. I first fell under his spell when I heard the heartrending single “Nighttime (Skin)” in summer 2020. Though Noel has worked in many sounds and musical styles, that song’s tender approach to slowcore indie-rock with understated instrumental arrangements punctuated by swaying choruses is carried throughout the 13 tracks of his latest album, Hang Time

On “Dove,” Noel’s rich baritone is doubled by the lilting voice of Common Holly‘s Brigitte Nagar as they tackle the weighty task of caring about “trivial things like love.” He is joined once again by Squirrel Flower‘s Ella Williams on “Bass Song,” trading off lines against a backdrop of gentle octave chords. As a mellotron swells, their voices come together to sing about the difficulty of sharing honest thoughts: “I don’t get to say the truth / When I want to / But I want to.” By using the least words possible, each one has weight.

The album’s duets are undoubtedly standouts, but Noel is most powerful when he sings on his own. On “Allies,” he repeatedly asks a simple question: “Are you on my side?” The other voice here comes from Malcolm X’s speech “The Ballot or the Bullet,” delivered at a Detroit Baptist church in 1964, one year before his death. When the song reaches one of Malcolm’s most famous quotes (“We must understand the politics of our community and we must know what politics is supposed to produce”), it is subsumed into a coda of shouts and clattering, lo-fi drums. Noel’s music might be intimate, but there’s a passionate flame blazing just below the surface.

– Jesse Locke 

Malaika Khadijaa – 18

Malaika Khadijaa
18
Independent
Toronto, ON
RIYL: Daniel Caesar; Cleo Sol; blowing out birthday candles

At the end of “Let Go,” the boldest track from Malaika Khadijaa’s 18, the voice of collaborator Alexander Gallimore emerges from the echoes of a ripping guitar solo and outlines the heart of the EP. Gallimore says:

You ask me big questions
“Why are you leaving?”
“Where will you go?”
“How will you get there?”
But I can’t tell you
I can’t tell you because I don’t know
Isn’t that beautiful?

Khadijaa’s 18 is full of the excitement, fear, curiosity, and beauty that’s coupled with becoming an adult. “Let Go” and opener “Need Me,” an outstanding R&B track that begins with a lone piano before drums and strings kick the song up a notch, are about setting relationships and expectations free. On the former, Khadijaa repeats “gotta let go” like she’s shredding pieces of paper. But within the warm rhythmic currents of “Nyota,” she is her own guiding light, and by the final song, “R4C (afterword),” Khadijaa embraces the uncertainties of the future: “I’m ready for this change.”

Khadijaa has a powerful presence on 18. Her voice is so dynamic that it’s in the EP’s quietest moments when the songs often shine the brightest. “Olive Tree” is a blissful acapella song where her vocal control is on full display, and when she welcomes change on “R4C (afterword),” Khadijaa is accompanied only by a simple guitar melody that allows her words to ring even louder. 

Laura Stanley

Ouri – Frame of a Fauna

Ouri
Frame of a Fauna
Born Twice / Lighter Than Air
Montréal, QC
RIYL: Aphex Twin; Arca; Oneohtrix Point Never

When you go from local scene fixture to full-fledged artist, you’ll want to make a strong artistic statement right from the jump. After dropping two excellent EPs (Maze and We Share Our Blood), frequently performing alongside producer CRi, and collaborating with fellow Montréal artist Helena Deland on their joint project, Hildegard, Ouri (born Ourielle Auvé) has emerged with her debut solo album, Frame of a Fauna. Made while travelling between London, Berlin, and Brazil, this LP encapsulates her frenetic-yet-expansive sound that has become her trademark, while tracing the marks life experience leaves behind. 

Meshing punchy industrial beats with ethereal synths and orchestral atmospheres (no doubt influenced by her background in classical music, studying both harp and piano), the Montréal-via-France producer/singer/composer combines her lush, forward-thinking production with her own breathy, soothing singing voice. With fellow Montréal artists Mind Bath and Antony Carle offering guest vocals to “Odd or God” and “Felicity” respectively, Frame of a Fauna‘s intoxicating take on trip-hop, ambient, and experimental electronic music sees Ouri making a hypnotic, dreamlike body of work that can be both danceable and experimental—often at the same time.

Dave MacIntyre

Secret Witness – Volume I

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. 

– Michael Rancic

Soul Boner – Liliana’s Divorce

Soul Boner
Liliana’s Divorce
Vain Mina
Montréal, QC
RIYL: Wasteland; WLMRT; 100 gecs

For the sake of full transparency, I selected this project to review because of the band’s name. That said, what I got when I pressed play was equally eyebrow-raising. Montréal-based duo Soul Boner’s debut EP, Liliana’s Divorce, is a five-minute, 13-second sonic caffeine rush that is short and sweet, but still packs a hefty punch. Feverish, blistering lo-fi noise punk meets hyper-pop à la 100 gecs, topped off with rapid-fire, deadpan spoken word monologues from front person Nara Wriggs—including one about refusing extra bread at McDonald’s to save money for fries, even if they’re “weird, dry, [and] soggy.” While any project at such a short length is difficult to properly analyze, it’s nonetheless a dizzying and sometimes eerie listen that serves as a memorable, in-your-face introduction to this duo’s raw, chaotic tunes.

– Dave MacIntyre

Tush – Fantast

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. 

Michael Rancic