Daisy Garland – Open Country

Daisy Garland
Open Country
Strawberry Coffin Records
Vancouver, BC
RIYL: Hank Williams; Lee Hazlewood; Ghost stories

The songs of Open Country roll into one another like a tumbleweed moving across the plains. The 20 country tracks of Daisy Garland (E.S Peters)’s double-album mix outlaw country with psychedelia and surf-rock to make one long strange trip for listeners. It’s an album full of cavernous twangs, hymnic vocals, love, and ghosts. In all of its run-on glory, you will also hear:

There’s forty-five hundred channels of shit on my tv Clem’s Creek she carries with her a bag of yarn the constant state of forward motion PRAISE THE LORD I SAW THE LIGHT it’s a horizontal cross I’ll stay up writing till Christmas passes I’m left to the bottle alone and so blue greener pastures for every light must come to an end.

On the way out of Open Country is the 13+ minute long closing track “Midnight on the Farm.” The full moon is shining on two dancing lovers, except they are not there – it’s just the swirling fog at midnight, and Daisy Garland and accompanying band the Thick Silver  transform the track from a lulling lament into sweaty, fevered chaos. It’s an electrifying conclusion to a thrilling journey. 

– Laura Stanley

Air Creature – Every Emotion

Air Creature
Every Emotion
Independent
Vancouver, BC
RIYL: engine failure; broken propellers; electrical storms

Spencer Schoening might be best known as the former drummer in JUNO Award-winning indie rock band Said the Whale, but few people know that within him lies a different beast. He himself didn’t know, until he heard Pulse Demon by harsh noise legend Merzbow. Roused by the demon’s call, what once lay dormant has now reared its head, and Schoening has given it a name: Air Creature.

The four pulverizing tracks on Air Creature’s Every Emotion crackle with electrical buzz. The churning “Hiddenness” will make you seasick on land. The distorted “Wilderness Pup” screeches and thrashes like T-1000 meeting its demise. “Poorest in the Forest” sputters and never lifts off, like a helicopter shooting smoke from its engine. When Air Creature pulls the plug on livewire shocker “Massive Aggressive,” the abrupt ending leaves you reeling.

You won’t find the bright, melodic sounds typically associated with ecstatic joy on Every Emotion—in fact, you might not be able to pinpoint what you feel. But disorientation elicits a peculiar bliss, perhaps one of numbness. Listening to Every Emotion, you will feel something, and sometimes, it’s better to wonder than to know for sure.

Leslie Ken Chu

DACEY – SATIN PLAYGROUND

DACEY
SATIN PLAYGROUND
Independent
Vancouver, BC
RIYL: SZA; Homeshake; Reverie Sound Revue

Heartbreak abounds on DACEY’s debut EP, SATIN PLAYGROUND, but the Vancouver quintet lift themselves up with a breezy mix of jazz, pop, hip-hop, and R&B. The members’ background as trained producers comes out in the seven songs’ warm, silky sound. Singer Dacey Andrada adds even more finesse as a jazz vocalist who grew up on Motown.

The buoyant “I’ll Be There” is perfect for walking away from a bad situation with your head held high; listening to the song, you can almost feel the sun in your eyes. And though Andrada gets hung up on memories of the good times on “See Thru Me” (“I keep on reminiscing what we had is gone,” she sings), slow jams like this will make you want to light a scented candle, spark up a joint, and chill out on your couch. And speaking of vibes, the fluid “SUMMERTIMEISDONE” could be an outtake from SZA’s Ctrl.

As Andrada sings on the groovy “Sidewalks,” “I’m only getting started.” SATIN PLAYGROUND is a confident first step for DACEY towards coming into their own.

– Leslie Ken Chu

Julian Yi-Zhong Hou – Grass Drama | Selected Works

Julian Yi-Zhong Hou
Grass Drama | Selected Works
Second Spring
Vancouver, BC
RIYL: Joseph Shabason; Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith; cloud gazing

Julian Yi-Zhong Hou’s Grass Drama—a collection of works whose original forms were largely multi-media art exhibits shown across Canada—is as entrancing as long grass dancing in the wind. There are lo-fi folk songs, orchestral and New Age elements, and tracks that centre on spoken word pieces. When you read all of the materials that accompany Grass Drama, you learn that Hou has woven into each song stories about his family, mental health, addiction, and the search for harmony.

Grass Drama is an immersive listening experience that I keep returning to because, although the album unfurls slowly, there is so much to absorb, and I don’t want to miss anything. What stands out during each listen are the spine-tingling whispers and sighs within the sparse “Solitaire” and the beautiful hymnic pacing of “Pink Cloud.”

The description of “Grass Drama,” the centrepiece of the album, on Hou’s website, provides insight into his measured approach to making art: “Hou developed this project over a two-year period, guided by a process of sensitivity training involving divination, hypnagogic practices and expanded states of consciousness, which took place alongside (and within) the slow construction of the artist’s backyard studio-shed and garden. The length of time is significant, Hou suggests, because it echoes the time required for many rhizomatic plants, such as hops or ginger, to mature and bear fruit.”

If you purchase a vinyl copy of Grass Drama you will also receive Selected Works, a collection of previously unreleased recordings that have accompanied Hou’s art installations over the last few years. Similar to Grass Drama, Selected Works, which is available to stream on Spotify too, has a mixture of swooping synths and piano-led pieces and is occupied by numerous voices. Although there are groovy moments like “Prince of the Blues” or “Fuse,” it’s largely a dirgeful collection of songs that leave you feeling unsettled: “How do you approach the end?” a voice asks on “The Sun.” But, like me, you will return to Hou’s releases again and again because you too are restless for answers.

– Laura Stanley

Minimal Violence – Phase Two

Minimal Violence
Phase Two
Tresor Records 
Vancouver, BC 
RIYL: Listening to techno at home; music on the cusp of scary; the ’90s

In May 2020, Minimal Violence released Phase One to kick off a three-part series titled DESTROY —->[physical] REALITY [psychic] <—- TRUST with Berlin’s iconic Tresor Records. Enter Phase Two. Both EPs are at home on the rave-ready label, simulating, at a distance, the claustrophobic (in a good way), mysterious, and dark aesthetics of the club. 

On Phase Two, Vancouver’s Ash Luk and Lida P. race through techno, industrial breakbeat, and other electronic experiments. The duo switches things up just when you think you have ahold of them, shopping in their encyclopedic influences not only across tracks but within them. The EBM sounds and screams of “Mankind” linger into neighbouring track “Hard Delivery,” while complementing its gabber style. EP opener “Dreams for Sale” may share breakbeat moments with closer “1992,” yet both tracks offer different soundscapes and visual imagery. Where the former is fit to soundtrack your worst nightmare, the latter is fit for a Matrix-style throwdown. (Don’t worry, you’re Neo, and you’re doing very well.)

We can expect Phase Three soon, although it looks like Minimal Violence will be a one-person act going forward with Lida stepping away from the duo. While we’ll surely still be barred from dancing en masse when it’s released, Minimal Violence will bring the club to us yet again. 

– Katerina Stamadianos

Sadé Awele
Time Love Journey
Self-Released
Vancouver, BC
RIYL: Jamila Woods; Aquakultre; Natalie Slade

Self-care takes time and love. For some people, it’s a journey. Nigerian-born singer Sadé Awele maps her path to self-preservation on her groovy, nocturnal EP, Time Love Journey. “You have to walk that road on your own / … / Are you even willing to try?” she asks on “Care.” Along with committing your own emotional labour, you have to be open to critical reflection: “How can you be so guarded? / I don’t understand it,” her interrogation continues.

Awele commands a breathless cool on the self-assured “No Love Lost.” Faint background horns mingle with pattering percussive brushes, creating a restrained energy on “Peak.” “These are my emotions,” she sings on this humid song, baring her vulnerability as she tries to conquer her anxiety and stay on top of her game.

“Take it easy, take it slow / We’ve got so far to go,” she repeats as thick bass, overhanging brass, and warm, smooth keys propel “Take It Easy” towards a crescendo. Sadé Awele proves self-care is worth the labour. She’s playing the long game, and I have a feeling she’s going to stick it out.

Leslie Ken Chu

SBDC
The Feeling of Winning
Kingfisher Bluez
Vancouver, BC
RIYL: Best Coast; WUT; pre-Warning Green Day

Booze and regrets flow on SBDC’s rollicking new album, The Feeling of Winning. Multi-voice choruses slam you like waves, knocking you under surfing riffs and rolling rhythms, before bungee basslines pull you back up. Getting back on your feet is what The Feeling of Winning is all about. 

“How did I make it through the night?” they ask on “Acid Brains,” after declaring “I don’t want to live this life anymore” on “Every Drunk in the World.” Small victories like shedding your vices and dropping the dead weight of underachievers and directionless, troublemaking boyfriends from your life fill the album’s 21-and-a-half minutes. But doing so comes with mixed emotions: SBDC want zero commitment on “Casual Friends,” yet they seek validation on “Date Me.” 

Such conflicts make for a crashing emotional mess, but they also make The Feeling of Winning one of the year’s best garage pop gems, and that’s no small victory.

– Leslie Ken Chu

Basic Instinct – Late Bloom

Basic Instinct 
Late Bloom
Independent
Vancouver, BC
RIYL: HÄG; Divide and Dissolve; languid riffs

Basic Instinct’s Late Bloom arrived on 4/20 like any self-respecting sludge album should. With this release the Vancouver-based duo do more than just adhere to genre standards or cliché – when the smoke clears, Late Bloom is one of the year’s best metal releases.  

Featuring former members of Hard Bitch and Joyce Collingwood, Basic Instinct takes the raw energy of those punkier beginnings to split sludge metal wide open across this record’s six tracks. No one song sounds alike. With a wealth of confident ideas, the band keeps their material consistently sharp. Album opener “Fresh” begins with marching drums and a slow, creeping riff that flips into a churning, black metal ferocity on a whim. Vocalist Carly Glanzberg is just as versatile as the band’s instrumentals: summoning a deep bellow that sounds at ease alongside the low-end her guitar provides, or a quiet coo on the restrained “Dark Turn.” That song revels in the ghostly, urgent tension invoked by percussionist Joy Mullen before turning into a magnificent slow burn.

On Late Bloom, the brand of metal Basic Instinct offer up is molten and malleable in their capable, creative hands. 

– Michael Rancic

Tommy Tone – Finally Punk

Tommy Tone
Finally Punk
Trashtronix
Vancouver, BC
RIYL: The Queen Haters; The Village People’s “Food Fight”; Pink Panther Punk

Tommy Tone has achieved the final state of subcultural metamorphosis, but its spirit was inside him all along. Decked out in his trademark neon windbreaker and shiny black mop, he pushes back against the punk police who want to dress him up in their costumes and pose him like a doll. Anyone who’s been sucked into the Tone Zone knows his forms of artistic expression are far less rigidly defined than the liberty spike brigade. On Finally Punk, his glittering synths and pumping drum machines have more in common with the genre-agnostic innovations that arrived after 1977, poking fun at the rock star mythos while reveling in theatrical performance. 

Those RIYLs at the top of this review share Tommy Tone’s belief that punk is a movement worth satirizing and celebrating in equal measure, yet he shares more sonic traits with Tuxedomoon or maybe even Chainmale. “They Tried To Make Me A Punk” is the album’s rallying cry, before he lets his guard down on the new wave love song, “She’s So Cool,” letting us know there is a sweetness behind the facade. He closes with an acquiescence to the power of caveman rock and roll, as ripping guitars and pounding drums propel “How Does The Mountain Die.” Near its conclusion, Tommy deadpans “I never wanted to have fun.” It’s hard to believe him with this level of commitment to the bit.      

– Jesse Locke