The buzz around East Coast duo Vogue Dots is almost palpable with Ryan Hemsworth already enlisting an upcoming song from them for his Secret Song series. Which is why it might come as a surprise to find out how recently the band formed. Or that they’re already onto their second EP of the year after a season spent working on the band out in Belleisle, New Brunswick.
New Brunswick native and recent Halifax transplant Babette Hayward was already raking in the accolades as a folk singer and songwriter in her own province, taking home two awards and an East Coast Music Award before joining forces with Halifax musician and producer, Tynan Dunfield. The two connected by email first as she sang over a couple of tracks he sent, and planned and executed their Belleisle experiment while still getting to know each other.
The results were the sister albums Toska and Mauka. While dark and gloomy Toska made its debut early this year and catapulted the band forward, the balance of Mauka, along with and added richness, offers up the reassurance that there’s longevity to this dream pop collaboration.
Simply contrasting the openers is enough to see the difference half a year can make. Hayward’s voice is deep and confident as the music luxuriates in its ambience. The song drifts slowly, showing off Hayward’s range and stretching itself past her previous work.
The introduction of a resonating bass line vibrating underneath the song’s more whimsical notes with a minute left on “Way With Silence” signals a massive shift in the album’s tone, even as Mauka remains far happier than its older sibling. The threatening undertone Dunfield sets up balances out Hayward’s arching voice and keeps the album from tipping too far into one extreme or the other.
On “Tux” that back and forth continues to be perfected with echoing drum rolls and guitar interludes getting played up instead of the vocals. And while “Jealous Arts” makes for an irresistible dance number, the EP’s dreamlike quality is never lost as notes are teased out, altered and shaped to fit the pair’s “get down with yr sad self” motto.
It’s impossible not to get lost in Hayward’s voice and the way it flows so smoothly with Dunfield’s samples. By the time the final note sounds on the punchy “Way Out,” coming out of the trance Vogue Dots creates feels like the abrupt end of a delicious high—leaving behind a sense of emptiness and making a return to the beginning of the 17 minute EP an absolute necessity.
Top Tracks: “Way With Silence”; “Way Out”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*