New Fries – Is the Idea of Us

New Fries
Is the Idea of Us
Telephone Explosion
Toronto, ON
RIYL: DNA; Palberta; rock music smashed into 1,000 pieces and taped back together again

Since stripping down to a trio, the arty post-post-punk sound of Toronto’s New Fries has become even more distilled and abstract. Singer Anni Spadafora’s bass playing maintains a hypnotic rhythmic throb, while the guitars that previously clanged have become just another texture in their tapestry. Tasking synth wizard Carl Didur with production has given these songs both grit and bleariness, merely adding to their hazy disorientation. In between the album’s more traditionally structured songs, New Fries include short experimental interludes, each one titled “Genre.” When they finally provide the satisfaction of settling into a groove, like on the propulsive “Ploce” or twitching “Lily,” the band blur the lines between mutant disco and no wave. By continually reimagining their own idea of themselves, New Fries will never go stale.

Jesse Locke

Westelaken – The Golden Days are Hard

The Golden Days are Hard
Toronto, ON
RIYL: wearing a Shania Twain shirt to a punk show; Waxahatchee; The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife

Westelaken’s The Golden Days are Hard is both chaotic and patient. Led by Jordan Seccareccia’s trembling voice, the punk-edge of this “post-country” band is at its hardest on “Mercy, ‘milk-of-human-kindness’” which squeals and plods like a fang-toothed beast and on the frantic “Ghosts Explode,” a grungy song that clocks in at under a minute.

Elsewhere, Westelaken nestle their riotousness in softness and are willing to linger in a moment: over nine minutes, Westelaken move from a honky-tonk jam into a distorted frenzy on “The October Song” and opener “The January Song” starts the album off with a surge of energy before, on the latter half of the track, the band slow things down and Seccareccia is practically whispering.

On “Grace,” a piano-led highlight and the band at their most tender, contributing vocalist Rachel Bellone sings of life in the face of death and describes numbness with great precision: “I don’t hate anything anymore but I used to love the morning.” It’s one of many moments on The Golden Days are Hard that emphasizes the clarity Westelaken has when it comes to the stories they want to tell and how they want to tell them.

Laura Stanley

Wellington Sanipe – “water issue”

Wellington Sanipe
“water issue”
Ottawa, ON
RIYL: Emily A. Sprague; sitting beside a stream

The sound of water in its various forms – rain, the ocean, a waterfall – is probably the most used sound in ambient music. It fills sleep playlists and is piped into therapists’ waiting rooms, diluting our anxieties and, also, maybe, making you have to pee. While “water issue” expectedly features the sound of water (a stream, perhaps) running throughout, Ottawa’s Wellington Sanipe takes unexpected turns across his twenty minute ambient composition. Starting around the six minute mark, Sanipe transitions from playing sporadic synth notes to a steady melody and then slowly a dissonant hum creeps in and at one point Sanipe’s synth notes become so loud that you can barely hear the trickling water. This gradual evolution is jarring and haunting, like being pulled from a beautiful dream into a nightmare. By the end of “water issue,” the flowing water sound is the primary focus again and a calmness returns. It’s almost as if that nightmare never happened.

Laura Stanley

Mother Tongues – Everything You Wanted

Mother Tongues
Everything You Wanted
Buzz Records
Toronto, ON
RIYL: Stereolab/Broadcast; psychedelia; being moody 

I’m not sure whether Mother Tongues would welcome or wince at a likening to psych-rock royalty Melody’s Echo Chamber. Like Melody, the Toronto band’s influences take centre stage on their debut release, where swirling, trance-like guitars, punchy synth lines, and distant vocals combine to form a nostalgic, psyche-kraut soundscape. If the album’s most interesting effort, “Fortunes,” is any indication, Mother Tongues know they aren’t reinventing the wheel – but that their subtle plays with timing and vocal delivery will make you want to get in the car and keep driving. Because, at the end of the day, any band aiming for mysticism (as per the album’s release pitch) is looking to take you somewhere else. Everything You Wanted gets you just there, whatever that means to you.

Katerina Stamadianos

Ian Daniel Kehoe – Rock & Roll Illusion // Charging The Stone // Disco Body Buzz

Ian Daniel Kehoe
Rock & Roll Illusion // Charging The Stone // Disco Body Buzz
Tin Angel Records
Toronto, ON
RIYL: Nicholas Krgovich; Sandro Perri; ‘80s Springsteen

In a rockstar move, Ian Daniel Kehoe released, in his words, “a casual trio of albums” in one day. While they differ in sound and mood, each album – Rock and Roll Illusion, Charging the Stone, and Disco Body Buzz – feels intrinsically linked. It’s like one adventurous night. Rock & Roll Illusion is a rock album that’s tender enough to listen to while drinking a sparkling beverage and wearing cut-off jean shorts in your living room. Disco Body Buzz, on the other hand, is moody and heavy with synths and electronic drum beats. It’s for driving around all night, wearing a leather jacket, and dancing with somebody you find cute. Charging The Stone is a record to put on when the sun is about to rise again but you’re still wide-eyed from your night out. It has a joyful twang to it, thanks to Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel and there’s a deep ease present. On “Sometimes Feeling Means Goodbye,” Kehoe reaches a comradely high when he, alongside The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman (who is heard throughout the records), sings, “all that we can do is cry and cry together / cry where we are / cry together from afar.”

And then it is clear: what links Kehoe’s three albums is love.

Laura Stanley

Dijah SB – 2020 the Album

Dijah SB
2020 the Album
Toronto, ON
RIYL: Clairmont The Second; Harrison; Sydanie

A rapper’s ability to sound unphased by what life throws at them is a big part of what makes hip hop so appealing to listen to. Sounding confident while navigating through life’s challenges is a definite skill that many people covet, though few actually possess. 
With their debut album, Dijah SB makes aspiration art, conveying a sense of drive and determination while nimbly leaving any sense of doubt in the dust. It’s a tough balancing act, but songs like “C’est la vie” pair rubbery future funk with Dijah’s impressive technicality in a way that sounds so lithe and off the cuff that it’s impossible to not be convinced, especially when they rhyme “c’est la vie, anything you do is okay by me.” Over its eight tracks, 2020 the Album is a masterclass in lightning quick quips, strong hooks, and killer production that all contribute to a confidence that’s backed by pure talent.

Michael Rancic