reviewed by Chris Matei
Creative individuals love to challenge themselves in intriguing ways: Project 365, NaNoWriMo, and the like. For Adam Hanney, the fuel for a creative rocket launch came from the decision to write a finished song each month for a year. Hanney’s series of sprints ended up being a bit more of a marathon than he expected: over the next three years, the acoustic-forward songs that stemmed from the then-18-year-old’s writing process would be fleshed out into what is now 12/12, a record that is both an intimate snapshot of one formative year and a retrospective reflection on it through a more mature point of view.
The album’s opening pair of songs establish one of its two dominating sonic personalities: energetic, poppy rock with indie and alt-country flavours and sweet, warm guitar crunch. This is the sort of focused, compositional, art-class rock and roll that would stir the inner fires of CBC Radio’s Rich Terfry, blending bookish lyricism with homespun approachability and just a little edge – in the vein of a Jordan Klassen, Bahamas or Jasper Sloan Yip. “Caught,” “Third,” and “Architects” all play in this particular register, and would all probably work exceptionally well in a live setting as their heady late crescendoes whir to maximum power.
“Cede” switches into a ballad gear built on subtle looped brush strokes, and “Giselle” marks an early highlight: if we’re going by this record chronologically, we’re now situated somewhere in April, and by that logic the song feels every inch like the vibrant, nervous, expectant, bright thing it should.
“Howl” is split into a two-parter – in some circles, this identifies ambition and scope, while in others, it might signify a lack of willingness to edit. However, both parts shine on their own merits. The first is a scrawling rocker out of the Franz Ferdinand book, matching synthy verses with gritty chorus sections. It leans a little hard on a scrappy “rawk” guitar cue, but otherwise burns with a real energy. Part two opens up to fully expose a second distinct personality woven into 12/12 – that of the bedroom producer/beatscaper/Ableton fiddler-arounder, subtly hidden in other songs but explored here with dedication. The tune strongly evokes Radiohead’s “15 Step” in its drive to slowly and dramatically pile simple components on top of one another, sequences and melodies Jenga-ing upward into something dizzying.
Despite a cliched pound-pound kick drum pattern, “Manhattan” twists a keen knife: it starts out as a typical long distance/missing you song, but reveals its jealous/bitter streak halfway through and comes into its own thematically and musically. “Champagne” – one of the songs on 12/12 that appears to have stayed closest to its bare-bones singer-songwriter origins – also hides a moody build across the end of the track that hints at something darker.
An album with intent, focus, and creative variation from a young and talented Canadian artist, 12/12 packs a lot of depth into one year of self-reflection.
Top Tracks: “Giselle”; “Howl pt. 2”; “Manhattan”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)