Beams – The Gutters & the Glass
(Stream available via Exclaim!)
Beams’ first album had a sense of woozy whimsy, but with the band’s latest release, there’s definitely a sense of growing darkness while still in line with the voice the band has cultivated. There’s an ominous quality to the bass-and-banjo-driven opening to “The Way We Run,” but that’s only the beginning of a constantly-shifting song. The song reaches an interesting climax midway with the lyric: “I am sorry if my silence made you feel like you couldn’t talk.” The song then gets a little sunnier as Britpop guitars wash away that sinking feeling.
“Black Shadow” is a little closer to the Beams of old, but still pulses with a newfound confidence. The song moves in peaks and valleys, from musically-busy sections, complete with guitar, banjo and drums into quieter sections with a hint of glockenspiel and brushes of drums. The song’s chorus also hints at the band’s darker direction: amid crystalline vocal harmonies is the sense that something big is about to happen.
Rococode – “Banks”
There’s a sense of longing, maybe loneliness, to the latest video from Vancouver’s Rococode. “Banks” is a synth- and bass-heavy song that gives the listener plenty of room to appreciate the beautiful vocals from Laura Smith and Andrew Braun. The video explores a group of people who mostly seem to want something more—an older man looks longingly out the window, a girl lies on the floor, no doubt thinking about a painful memory. As the scenes continue, eventually the focus changes to an open field, where a group of people stare at a strange white structure.
The video is the first video effort from Fivethousand Fingers (Eli Horn and Lexane Rosseau), who collaborate visually on all of Rococode’s endeavours.
Castle If – “Sector 03″/”The Surge”
Jess Forrest’s synth project Castle If is hypnotic. She lures listeners into a trance with her small cavalcade of electronics, then suddenly makes them question everything. The latest from the icy Castle is this two-part video series shot at the Mendel Art Gallery, and directed by Lisa Folkerson. “Sector 03” is a sprawling song but doesn’t feel like it goes on forever despite the runtime. Forrest slowly adds bits in—a metronome-style backing beat, the odd flourish of synth, both modded and unmodded vocals—and watching it all come together on video is fascinating. Despite the calm tempo, Forrest is always moving, and the video gets downright weird when her face suddenly appears on screen.
The video for “The Surge” gets a bit more unhinged, breaking up the performance bits with more natural scenery and a lot more of Forrest on her own, singing the words. The song itself is a little more upbeat, and the video capitalizes on the faster tempo to create something truly disorienting. These two songs are a sneak peek at Castle If’s upcoming Sector 03 sci-fi concept album, and it’s a very promising start.
Pale Eyes – “Philosophka”
Toronto’s Pale Eyes continue their reign of electronic dominance with a simple but effective new video. Featuring Saralyn and Laurieann Stevens, dancers who occasionally accompany the band for live performances, the frantic song comes to life and just might need to come with a seizure warning. While the act’s absurdly-tall Benjamin McCarthy performs the song (just try to leave this video with “Don’t fuck me over” not struck in your head), the dancers strike increasingly impressive poses as the screen begins to flash.
Mulligrub – “Sprite Zero”
Mulligrub, the band behind two of my (Laura’s) favourite songs from 2014, are back teasing us with another song that will appear on their upcoming full-length record. “Sprite Zero” is a gritty and dispirited number with Kelly Campbell’s distinctive vocals conveying staggering emotion. Paired with a DIY video featuring stuffed animals drinking and doing drugs, “Sprite Zero” is a trip. For those who fear sock-puppets and/or are convinced that stuffed animals can read your mind, I warn you this video is scary.