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Basia Bulat

The Garden

    Introducing The Garden: a strings album and a retrospective from a room in Montreal with the windows open, and the wind moving, and the leaves changing, and a spring-coloured secret on the tip of Basia Bulat’s tongue.

    The band made it in a pandemic. Bulat and her old friend Mark Lawson, with whom she recorded the Polaris- and Juno-nominated album Tall Tall Shadow. Bulat and her husband, Legal Vertigo’s Andy Woods. Bulat and her friends Ben Whiteley, Zou Zou Robidoux, Jen Thiessen, John Corban and Tomo Newton, four fifths of whom form a string quartet, because did we mention this is a string album? Not a greatest hits but a re-configuration: a chance to record anew some songs that Bulat didn’t fully understand when she originally composed them, five or ten or fifteen years ago. As she first sang in 2006 — and again last fall, in that second-storey apartment: We gave away our hearts / before we knew what they were.

    The Garden gathers fourteen string arrangements by three different arrangers (Owen Pallett, Paul Frith, and Zou Zou Robidoux), revisiting material from all five of Bulat’s studio albums. There’s Pallett’s interpretation of 2010’s “Heart of my Own,” calling back to the Béla Bartók compositions that marked Bulat’s high-school career as an upright bassist. There’s Frith’s “Infamous,” which turns 2016’s prickly kiss-off into something open-facing and generous. And there’s Robidoux’s reimagining of “Are You In Love?” — released just last year — which here becomes a whirling ballroom dance, full of discovery.

    Bulat performs throughout, finding new feelings for old lines. Distance teaches; distance reveals things. “I sing the songs differently now,” she says. “It’s the gift of time.” Not just that: at the time of recording, Bulat had just found out she was expecting her first child. (Her daughter was born in April 2021.) She admitted it to her collaborators only in the midst of recording, down a wire from the vocal booth. “Hold it up to the light and let it grow,” Bulat sang once – and again that fall, as her body changed shape. “Tell me you’re always my only.” A song can change shape too — turning new leaves, growing new blooms, in unexpected seasons. You can play a record once; you can play it again. The Garden won’t wear out. It’s alive.

    TRACK LISTING

    1.The Garden
    2. Infamous
    3. Heart Of My Own
    4. The Shore
    5. I Was A Daughter
    6. Go On
    7. Tall Tall Shadow
    8. The Pilgriming Vine
    9. Windflowers
    10. Fables
    11. Already Forgiven
    12. Love Is At The End Of The World
    13. Lupins
    14. In The Name Of
    15. Are You In Love?
    16. Good Advice

    Shad

    Tao

      Over the course of five records to date, JUNO Award-winning Toronto rapper Shad has used an array of old-school tools to tackle modern problems, addressing the indignities and absurdities of our world through a shapeshfiting melange of boom-bap breaks, dusty soul samples, jazzy improvisation, and 10 dollar words rolled into thousand-dollar rhymes. But after weaving his myriad musical and philosophical interests into a narrative socio-political song cycle—2018’s A Short Story About a War—Shad began building his sixth record, TAO, from a much simpler concept: an image of a circle. Though, in true Shad fashion, he saw something much more profound within its basic round boundaries.

      “The thing that inspired this record was this image in my mind of a circle, but it’s getting fragmented, and then the pieces start floating away from each other,” he explains. “And that felt to me like a picture of ourselves as individuals. If you think of our humanity as one whole, there’s all these different aspects of that, whether that’s work, or our relationship to the land, or our relationship to the transcendent, or our relationship to our bodies, or to our inner child?”

      On a track-by-track basis, TAO examines the many different fragments that make up who we are, forsaking the explicit narrative connectivity of A Short Story About a War for a more implicit thematic framework. And where its predecessor’s intense subject matter naturally chanelled a more intense, even aggressive spirit, the looser structure of TAO allows Shad to return to his “natural strike zone” of more playful, block-rocking bops—the sort of tracks that might make you smile and snicker even as they unpack such thorny topics as race, capitalism, and technological dependency.

      TAO was actually written and recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic forced us into hiding, however, the events of the past year have only amplified the album’s sense of currency and relevancy. As Shad notes, “COVID is almost not like a new situation—it just sort of accelerated what was already happening in terms of isolation and precarity of work.” But now that vaccines are allowing us to take our first steps back to the lives we once knew, TAO’s arrival is perfectly timed for a world that’s ready to laugh, hug, and dance together again.


      TRACK LISTING

      1. Out Of Touch
      2. GOD
      3. Work
      4. TAO Pt 1
      5. Slot Machines
      6. Slow
      7. Body (No Reason)
      8. Storm
      9. TAO Pt 2
      10. Black Averageness
      11. Garçon
      12. TAO Pt 3

      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.

        TRACK LISTING

        Side A
        1. The Jungle
        2. Love That Boy
        3. House On Fire
        4. Sacrifice

        Side B
        1. Get My Mind
        2. Le Queens
        3. In Your Eyes
        4. Bold

        Basia Bulat

        Are You In Love?

          "Oh why didn't I just listen to myself in the first goddamn place," Basia says. Somewhere in the middle of making her fifth album, Bulat took almost a whole year off. Because she had fallen in love, because her father died, because she had lost her sense of beauty and where it might be hidden. "The desert exposes you," she admits. "There's nowhere to hide." "Throughout this whole record, I was struggling between keeping it together and letting go," she explains, "between holding onto old narratives or accepting what's before me." There was death and grief, but also forgiveness, reinvention and love: "coming to terms with the past and acceptance of the present and trying to stay open to the future."

          The result is an album that’s gorgeous and startling, quietly strange, a shining desert record with a bit of dusty rose over all its 13 tracks. Are You in Love? is searching and certain; it’s the sound of a singer who’s refusing to hide. The title track sashays like a girl-group classic; "No Control" flashes like that group’s hard stare. "Already Forgiven" ripples with reverb like a ribbon in a windstorm, whereas "Your Girl" is cruising down the highway – with Bulat doing her best Christine McVie. "Love Is At The End of the World," the album’s gradually thunderous closing tune, is one of the most thrilling things Bulat has ever created: a blazing, incandescent ever-after, all raw electric hope.


          TRACK LISTING

          1. Are You In Love?
          2. Electric Roses
          3. Your Girl
          4. Light Years
          5. Homesick
          6. Hall Of Mirrors
          7. I Believe It Now
          8. No Control
          9. Pale Blue
          10. Already Forgiven
          11. The Last Time
          12. Fables
          13. Love Is At The End Of The World

          Leif Vollebekk

          Inland

            '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

            TRACK LISTING

            1. In The Morning
            2. You Couldn’t Lie To Me In Paris
            3. In The Midst Of Blue And Green
            4. Michael Robartes & The Dancer
            5. Quebec
            6. Northernmost Eva Maria
            7. A Dozen Mares
            8. 1921
            9. Don’t Go To Klaksvik
            10. Ladyland

            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

              TRACK LISTING

              1. Southern United States
              2. Off The Main Drag
              3. Cairo Blues
              4. Photographer Friend
              5. At The End Of The Line
              6. A Wildfire Took Down Rosenberg
              7. Takk Somuleidis
              8. Pallbearer Blues
              9. When The Subway Comes Above The Ground
              10. From The Fourth

              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.


                TRACK LISTING

                1. Vancouver Time
                2. All Night Sedans
                3. Elegy
                4. Into The Ether
                5. Big Sky Country
                6. Michigan
                7. Road To Venus
                8. East Of Eden
                9. Telluride
                10. Rest


                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

                Millie 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!

                TRACK LISTING

                1. La La Lie
                2. Long Goodbye
                3. Let Me In
                4. In The Name Of
                5. Time
                6. Good Advice
                7. Infamous
                8. Fool
                9. The Garden
                10. Someday Soon

                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.

                TRACK LISTING

                1. Blame
                2. Ten Thousand
                3. Closer
                4. White Lies
                5. Nothing New
                6. Babel
                7. Long Gone
                8. Go Home
                9. What Happened
                10. Hold Me Down
                11. Dream

                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.

                TRACK LISTING

                1. Awe
                2. Tracers
                3. Raw Spectacle
                4. Wave
                5. Spectre
                6. Everything Works
                7. Before
                8. Miscalculations
                9. Immanent Domain
                10. Until

                "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).'

                TRACK LISTING

                01. Tom Cruz
                02. Swinging Bells
                03. American Idol
                04. Undone Melody
                05. Kon Tiki
                06. Game Shows
                07. The Mama Papa
                08. Fake It
                09. Celebration
                10. Future From The 80s
                11. Jeans Jeans Jeans


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