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Plants And Animals

The Jungle

    On the day Plants and Animals recorded the title track to their new album, it was one of those increasingly rare moments when everyone seemed to be watching the same thing at the same time. A judge was on trial. So they watched too, on somebody’s laptop in the front room of the building where the recording studio is. It was addictive and galling.

    When you walk into the studio itself, sound sucks down into nothing because the walls are carpeted and you’re reminded for a split second that a river of thoughts has been flowing through your mind your entire life. The din fades in again.

    They came to try and solve an old song that they had written for their last album but couldn’t get right. Warren punched a beat in on an 808. He picked up a bass, Nic picked up a guitar and they played the changes over it. Woody put down a motorik beat. Adèle Trottier-Rivard was with them that day. She sang and tried out different shakers running through Nic’s guitar pedals while he manipulated them in real time with his right hand while holding their baby in his left. Things fell into place. They wrote the words on the spot. The judge snaked his way in.

    Plants and Animals work on instinct. They’ve been playing together for 20 years, so they basically started as kids. They were a big part of the mid-’00s Montreal music renaissance, when you couldn’t walk through the neighbourhood at 4pm on a Tuesday without spilling your coffee on the fitted jeans of a who’s who. They ran around sweaty all night and blew bubbles from the roof over Parc Avenue when they finished their first album. They became known for a ferocious live show and still are. They have just finished their fifth album. They’re parents now, and have been so for long enough to move beyond euphoria into anxious realness and bigger love. The world is a different place than it used to be.

    “The Jungle” starts with electronic drums that sound like insects at night. A whole universe comes alive in the dark. It’s beautiful, complex and unsettling. Systematic and chaotic. All instinct, no plan. Voices taunt, “yeah yeah yeah.” This tangled time in which we find ourselves reflected back in shadows.

    Every song is such a landscape. The first one grinds to a halt and you become a kid looking out a car window at the moon, wondering how it’s still on your tail as you speed past a steady blur of trees. You watch a house go up in a yellow strobe that echoes the disco weirdness of Giorgio Moroder, Donna Summer and David Bowie. You get pummelled by a rhythm then set free by a sudden change of scenery—the wind stops, clarity returns. You’re under a streetlight in Queens, soft-focus, slow motion, falling in love. You speak French now too, in case you didn’t already. Bienvenue.

    These are personal experiences made in a volatile world, and they reflect that world right back at us, even by accident. “House on Fire,” came from Warren’s haunting feeling that a friend who was taking too many sleeping pills might forget to turn his stove off. It was written before Greta Thunberg made the expression a rallying cry.

    There’s one song Nic sings to his teenage son who was dealing with climate change anxiety and drifting into uncharted independence. The band carries it out slowly together into a sweet blue horizon. Warren wrote the words to another shortly after losing his father. It’s about the things we inherit not necessarily being the things we want. In a broader sense, that’s where a lot of people find themselves right now.


    Shadow Offering

      Braids have been taking the time and space necessary for little miracles to occur. Burrowed in their Montreal studio, the band has spent the better part of three years crafting Shadow Offering, via their new label home, Secret City.

      Unlike previous albums, Braids decided to stay close to home for the recording of Shadow Offering. Taking over a spacious sound recording studio tucked in an old warehouse, the band were able to slow down and creatively rediscover themselves. “With this album, we wanted to give ourselves time to achieve a higher caliber of artistry and collaboration,” Tufts says. No longer riding the novelty of youth, the band deliberately took time to recommit to themselves and their craft, and channel new energy into their music. They wrote 40 songs. They went through their Saturn Returns. They learnt how to support one another better. They drank a lot of La Croix.

      The band sketched and re-sketched new material for eighteen months before lucky circumstance found Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) renting out space in their studio. The four began wandering into each others’ rooms, curious about each others’ projects. Typically opting for a private and insular creation process, the friendship between the four saw the band sharing their songs with Walla, and naturally resulted in Walla co-producing and engineering Shadow Offering. Pushing the band out of their comfort zone, he at once broke and unified the band’s dynamic, unearthing individual creative energy long buried over the years. With a new sense of confidence, listeners will find Braids at their most personal, unabashedly flexing through their new music.

      A luscious and expansive release, Shadow Offering leads us through a sonic tapestry of narrative. With heart-breaking honesty and precision, listeners traverse a nuanced and complicated world: one full of beautiful contradiction. Although the album directs itself at the failures of people to love and be loved, it also seeks to restore justice and attain blissful union. Its arc crests through the dark towards the light and learns how to dance with the dizzying rhythms of the heart. The songs bubble, sustain, dissolve, expand, retract.

      The creative process saw Tufts exploring groovier and more supportive rhythms, while Standell-Preston and Smith picked up their guitars in a serious way, something they hadn’t done since Native Speaker. ‘Young Buck’, Shadow Offering’s lead single, sees Braids at their most playful and confident. An effervescent ode to impossible love, it exudes an undeniable magnetism reminiscent of the band’s breakthrough works ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Plath Heart’.

      With Shadow Offering, Standell-Preston’s voice is visceral as always, conveying a new confidence and rawness we’ve yet to hear from her. Fans of commanding 90’s songwriters like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette will relish in her voice’s strength and lyrical aptitude. ‘Snow Angel’, an unhinged performance from Standell-Preston, has her leaning passionately into her anger. “You’re allowed to be angry, don’t shy away from it because you feel you have to,’” Standell-Preston recalls Walla saying. Validated and encouraged, Braids’ frontwoman dove deeper into her frustrations and anxieties about her internal and external worlds.

      ‘Snow Angel’, in effect, is the album’s core. Across its sweeping 9-minutes is a diary entry literally exploding beyond the boundaries of the page. Standell-Preston desperately seeks a mere inch of belonging “Amongst all the madness, the chaos / The need to march in the streets / Fake news and indoctrination / Closed borders and deportation”. Surrounded by klangy guitars and unrelenting rhythm, she plunges, and deliberately feels it all at once; when a dying house plant, the climate crisis, another cracked iPhone screen, and the endless barrage of both content and destruction all carry equal weight in driving oneself to scream in madness over what it means to be alive in the modern world. Falling from the song’s zenith, she is left aching for peace within the chaos distinctive to her Millennial generation: “Can I get off of this ride / I’m feeling dizzy / It’s moving way too fast / And I wanna come down”.

      Although the album recounts pain, heartbreak, anger, it also lifts the heart towards hope. “There’s more hopefulness in this record than anything else I’ve written. I think the songs are more human, more tangible, more honest,” Standell-Preston says, referencing therapy and her transcendental meditation practice as helping her through the rhythms of her life. “I showed up for my heart on this record. I really showed up. From the start to the finish.” No better is this reflected than in ‘Eclipse’, an album standout. Dedicated to the singer’s best friend Ashley, it’s a song that sinks deep into a feeling of reverie for nature, the love found in friendship, and the vital nature of personal reflection:

      At my core I feel good
      My essence is assured
      But there’s so many layers to get there
      So much build up
      So many left their mark on me
      …What eclipses me in my life?”

      “Parts of us get eclipsed by certain experiences and behavioural tendencies, trauma and societal programming,” Standell-Preston says. To take those parts and create a beautiful arrangement for listeners to feel solace and pleasure in, that is Braids’ offering. “This is what we offer back, this thing we have created. It was fueled into existence via the magnitude of our life experiences. We’re offering the abstraction of it back. This is the shadow it casts,” Smith says.

      The definition of an eclipse is “the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another.” In many ways, Braids have crafted a balm with Shadow Offering to combat the dark forces that cross us. To overcome the fears that plague us, the planets eclipsing our planetary bodies, the patterns that bind us, the anxiety that grips us, the heartbreak that breaks us. The balm is the perfect antidote to such darkness and chaos: that of hope, pleasure and, above all, always love.

      There is no reason
      Just breath
      And a beating of the heart
      One foot in front of the other
      Then the other
      That’s all


      Coloured LP Info: Opaque red vinyl.

      Leif Vollebekk


        'Inland finds Vollebekk baring his soul and achieving a deep poignancy [and] effortlessly transcends the singer-songwriter paradigm'. - EYE (Canada****).

        For fans of: Patrick Watson, Joanna Newsom, Devandra Banhardt. A visit to his Plateau apartment in Montreal reveals an endless collection of records from Bob Dylan to Ray Charles. An avid fan of vinyl, Leif wrote half the songs for his own, "Inland", while studying Icelandic and Philosophy in Reykjavik, Iceland. The other half were written upon his return home to Montreal, Canada, where he recorded and self-produced the debut album a short time later at Montreal's Breakglass studio (Wolf Parade, Patrick Watson, Besnard Lakes). Arranged and orchestrated entirely by Leif, "Inland" is primarily centred around Leif’s acoustic guitar and story-telling, featuring string quartets on occasion, piano at times, and splashes of harmonica and drums. Vollebekk, a multi-instrumentalist, is often seen performing solo, playing the violin on stage, using loop-samplers for accompaniment and then switching to electric or acoustic guitars to create a sound similar to the album, but an entirely different experience

        Leif Vollebekk

        North Americana

          Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, Leif Vollebekk is a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter known for his somber, melancholy pop songs that capture the themes of yearning, long-lost love, and adventure. During his childhood and teens, he discovered the music of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Lou Reed whilst also discovering a connection with the writings and works of Beat Generation authors Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bukowski. Having tried his hand at a multitude of instruments, he was initially interested in composition and shaping a song, rather than the lyrics; that is, until he heard Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate." With a newfound obsession for illustrating stories and images with words, he sought to expand upon his creative abilities and headed to Iceland to discover his Nordic roots

          Leif Vollebekk

          Twin Solitude

            Leif Vollebekk, the Montreal singer songwriter and multi instrumentalist had hit a wall. In the midst of endless touring Leif found himself retreating to his lonely hotel rooms after shows and listening to Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’ alone in the dark. His own songs didn’t sound right and he felt the bright spots in his sets were the covers he’d end with: songs by Ray Charles or Townes Van Zandt. In this deep blue mood he booked a secret show at a Montreal dive bar, only playing covers with a band that rehearsed once. The experience led Leif to change his approach to songwriting: explore the ideas that came spontaneously to him, and let the songs shape themselves. Soon the songs came pouring out of him. This approach is what created the lush, freewheeling and often devastating ‘Twin Solitude,’ out February 24 on Secret City Records.

            "By the time the last notes die away, all that's left should be you," Leif says. "And I’ll be somewhere else. And that’s Twin Solitude.”

            Leif’s third album, features 10 delicate and expansive original songs, with lyrics that pour out of this singer songwriter that are often compared to Jeff Buckley. Leif’s words lay on a bed of elastic instrumentation full of piano, synthesizer, guitar, rich electric bass and strings.

            Several songs on the album came to Leif and were written in one sitting. 'Into the Ether' came to be while he was exploring a Moog synthesizer. ‘Elegy' is a bedside soliloquy, of love slipping through fingers and came to Leif while he was riding his bike through Montreal. The meditative ‘Michigan' was written on a half-tuned guitar and fully written as he was about to go to sleep. Other songs on the album capture the countless hours Leif has spent on the road, crisscrossing North America. 'Big Sky Country' recalls a trip to Vancouver with his family when he was young, never forgetting the expanse of Montana and listening to Ian Tyson’s song 'The Gift' in the car over and over again.
            ‘Twin Solitude’ features Olivier Fairfield from Timber Timbre (drums), Sarah Page from the Barr Brothers (harp) on ‘Rest' Shahzad Ismaily of Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog and SecretCheifs3 (bass) on several tracks and the string duo Chargaux throughout the album as well. It was engineered by Dave Smith and recorded at his Breakglass Studios in Canada. Produced by Leif Vollebekk.

            Vollebekk made his album debut in 2010 – and since then has performed at the Newport Folk Festival, and shared stages with Daniel Lanois, Beth Orton, Sinéad O'Connor, Patrick Watson, Coeur de Pirate, William Fitzsimmons and Sam Amidon. His debut ‘Inland’ was described as “beautiful, memorable and moving” by NPR and “timeless and monumental” by The Independent.

            Bulat teamed-up with friend and collaborator Jim James of My Morning Jacket on the album’s production, driving 600 miles from her home in Montreal to La La Land recording studio in James’ hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Bulat originally met James backstage at the Austin City Limits music festival; the two reconnected when she toured with him in the summer of 2013 and became friends. Good Advice is a departure from Bulat’s previous work, with her voice backed up by drums, bass, electric guitar and keys. James plays electric guitar, synth, saxophone and bass on the album; further Louisville guests including members of Houndmouth, Twin Limb, Seth Kauffman of Floating Action and more also join Bulat.

            “Pop songs can take all those big statements and those big feelings that you have,” Bulat says. “You don't need to necessarily have everything so detailed because everybody understands. Everybody understands those feelings.” “Basia has something truly unique,” says James. The duo recorded the album over several visits Bulat made to Kentucky. “I knew immediately that it was the exact right place to be,” says Bulat. “To go so far from home, then to find that it felt like home.”
            Of the sessions, James recalls, “The entire process was so amazing. Hearing her voice just exploding out of her soul brought us all to tears in the control room. Watching Basia come out of her shell with great power was an extraordinary thing to witness.”

            Good Advice follows Bulat’s critically acclaimed Juno and Polaris Music Prize-nominated 2013 release, Tall Tall Shadow, which The Line of Best Fit calls “a brilliant and engaging pop record” and the Austin Chronicle praises for its “lovely, spectral musing that balances indulgence with homespun tendencies.” In the two years since, Bulat has played shows across North America and Europe with Sufjan Stevens, Destroyer, Daniel Lanois, Bahamas and more.

            Since the release of her debut album, Oh My Darling, Bulat has shared the stage with artists including Arcade Fire, The National, Nick Cave, St. Vincent, Beirut, Andrew Bird, Tune-Yards, Sondre Lerche, The Tallest Man on Earth, The Head and the Heart, Owen Pallett, Devotchka and many more. Known for her talents on little-known instruments including the autoharp and charango, Bulat has also been tapped for tributes to Leonard Cohen and The Band.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            says: ‘Good Advice’ is a breath-taking album which is filled with heartache. It begins with her deep soulful voice, it’s bold and resolute then the end of the album shows us an enchanting whimsical finish (the song Someday Soon especially) It’s very emotional; you need to listen to it!

            Emilie & Ogden is Emilie Kahn along with her harp, Ogden. Emilie discovered the harp when The Barr Brothers harpist, Sarah Pagé, played along with her school choir, driving her to find an instructor on Craigslist the next day. Emilie explains, “I had never felt this way toward an instrument.” Lithium Magazine further adds how Emilie makes the harp “seem like an extension of herself rather than an instrument.”

            Emilie wrote all the lyrics and music for 10 000, then teamed up with longtime accomplice and producer Jesse Mac Cormack and her drummer Francis Ledoux to finalize the songs’ construction. The music was recorded in Studio B-12 nestled in the woods of Valcourt in Quebec, CA. 10 000 includes two deconstructed and reconstructed tracks, Babel and Long Gone, from her previous EP, in addition to completely new compositions.

            Miracle Fortress

            Was I The Wave

            Graham Van Pelt, a.k.a Miracle Fortress, has no problem testing our patience. His latest LP 'Was I the Wave?' showed up relatively unannounced in April, four years after the Montreal experimentalist embraced his hermetic tendencies and seemingly vanish into thin air. It’s no surprise Van Pelt’s voice doesn’t appear until well into the album’s second track; if nothing else, he fancies himself a musician worth waiting for.

            But Van Pelt is fully aware a four-year break stunted any momentum garnered by debut 'Five Roses', so, on 'Was I the Wave?' he builds from the ground up. Where 'Five Roses' got by on it’s warm textures and whimsical melodies, 'Was I the Wave?' is more traditional studio-junky electronic album. The songs are sample heavy and loop driven with tinny and pitch shifted vocals. And while this style of production often breeds songs that never quite leave the ground, Van Pelt avoids these pitfalls with engrossing pop melodies and a mixing board virtuosity that would make Richard D. James blush.

            Standout tracks like ‘Everything Works’ showcase Van Pelt’s gift for fleshing out a song with samples; Electronic freakout “Immanent Domain” unravels into a lone electric guitar riff, before bleeding into album closer “Until”: a duet between two clean guitars. Van Pelt leaves us not with the lush studio work that gave the album life, but with the organic instrumentation hidden beneath it, asserting that with Miracle Fortress, a little patience goes a long way.

            "La La Land" is the sophomore album from Montreal trio Plants and Animals. They first gained recognition in 2008 with their first full length, Parc Avenue, which Pitchfork describes a as a collection of “expansive, genre bending symphonies” that “crackles with warmth and intimacy,” and which many praised as one of the years most promising (if overlooked) debuts. "La La Land" represents a more cohesive and concise effort on the bands part, showcasing their unmatched ability to conjure all the sonic analog power and spirit of the best Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix recordings, while still sounding fresh, innovative and contemporary, alongside local peers like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade.

            Paste magazine points out that 'While the songs are shorter and punchier than the seven-minute marathons of Parc Avenue ... they’re complicated and gorgeous and feel as innate as desire itself'.

            Canada’s national daily The Globe and Mail says the album is 'psychedelic, amplified and momentous … songs are multifaceted, with a sense of Radiohead importance, Arcade Fire intensity and très cool dirty-basement rock and roll ("American Idol" gets my vote as the missing link between Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street).'

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