This week, Toronto experienced a bit of a weather shift. Icy cold, streaks of rain chipping away at snowbanks, and the constant feeling of wet socks. Montreal’s Kieran Blake clearly wasn’t witness to this weather while writing What Vicious Glow, but the feeling is captured entirely. There’s heartbreak and shaking loneliness, but the brightness and freshness of the air is beautiful, too.
He takes folk and applies a soft-pass filter, filling his gorgeous melodies with woozy guitar, doo-wop backing vocals, and a whiff of experimental music. The focus, though, is Blake’s voice itself: vulnerable, expressive, and often mournfully nostalgic.
Blake starts out by advising and instructing the listener. You are informed that “sometimes you’ve got to get used to lonely” and to “think about a love that you haven’t seen in years”. That last instruction definitely gets you in the mood to process the themes of love lost present here.
Much of the album seems to chronicle a failed relationship with an unnamed “her” – he meets her during a sunrise, but the love quickly turns sour. “This kind of love won’t ever last, it starts too slow and ends too fast”, Blake sings. Through musical echoes and whistles, he continues to tell his story, plagued by uncertainty and loneliness. His perception of her changes, as does anyone’s idea of someone they should be emotionally leaving behind: “I loved her, I love her, I’ll love her, I will love her forever.”
Towards the end, you get “Last Song About Her”, which deals with the idea of writing songs about someone who hurt you. Sure, your writing is probably infused with real intensity, but then you also have to re-live the pain every time you play the song. The ordering of this song as second-last is interesting, strengthening the suggestion that all of the heartbreak preceding is caused by this titular “her”.
And he’s true to his word – this album finishes with “Satisfied”, presumably not about her. Though, there is a dark footnote added to his newfound happiness: “Your love keeps me satisfied, if only for a little while.” The title of this album is clear about the themes it contains. Love can be bright and beautiful, but can have a sharp, painful edge. Try not to fall prey to its viciousness.
Top Tracks: “Think About A Love”; “Oochie”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)