Maybe it’s the shifting seasons and my renewed interest in bundling up with a hot drink that has me sinking into Secret Sun’s soothing, semi-ambient debut so easily. The ten tracks, pairing Anne-Marie Campbell’s deep and delicate vocals with Simon Landry’s reassuring synthetic patterns, feel designed for the slow chill of autumn. Then again, maybe my urge to keep Cold Coast on repeat all afternoon has less to do with the sudden plunge in temperature, and more to do with the fact that the duo are just plain good.
According to their self-scribed history, the pair decided one afternoon in 2011 to join forces and write music—a goal they spent the next year working towards before coming out with an EP, also named Cold Coast. Things grew from there, with Secret Sun playing a number of shows in Montreal and grabbing no small measure of attention from critics for Campbell’s voice and Landry’s composition—the same captivating elements of their upcoming full-length. When it came time to record their follow up, they turned to Sebastian Blais-Monpetit (Radio Radio) and François Lafontain (Karkwa) to produce the LP.
Maybe mimicking the seasonal shift I can’t help compare it to, Cold Coast opens with plenty of energy before slowly sinking into beautiful melancholy. Opener “Passing Cars” features Landry’s favoured whirring rhythms and drum synths tapping away in the background. Campbell’s lingering lyrics emerge out of the slow, steady beat—a slight echo to her voice softening the edges without fully masking its surprisingly resonant quality.
The jaunty title track, packing more pop and punch follows while “Can’t You See” is a milder take that places the emphasis firmly on Campbell’s impeccable voice, layered hypnotically over itself. It isn’t until “NHNT” that Secret Sun really picks up the pace again, but the result is an addictively simple percussive tapping with the odd flourish and switch—an approach Campbell mimics with her cadence, rising and falling methodically.
On “Feather,” that voice begins to dominate even further with just a handful of lyrics—hymnlike in its breadth but far more modern and welcoming thanks to Landry’s modern touch. The track also marks a definite shift in tone for the rest of the album. Campbell’s voice becomes more mellow and subdued, coming out more emotional on songs like “Stay Still” and tapping into an older, more present style for “Crashing Waves” to match Lafontaine’s guest appearance on the piano.
While it seems like there isn’t as much for Landry to do as Campbell carries the final half, his light touch provides the perfect balance—calculated to accent her low notes with gentle crescendos and building each track into a dream-like sequence that slowly lets the mind close in on its own reverie. By the time the final notes sound, Cold Coast has created the comforting chill of its title: inviting, simplistically powerful and filled with longing as we retreat into winter.
Cold Coast will be available September 30th via Bonsound.
Top Tracks: “Cold Coast”; “NHNT”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)