A few overlooked acts in 2016: The half-way through edition

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by Laura Stanley and Michael Thomas

We owls can only cover so much music before our feathers start to get all ruffled so twice a year we gather up some of our favourite albums that we almost didn’t get to. Behold the half-way through 2016 edition of A Few Overlooked Acts:

Yessica Woahneil – Cheekbone

Love is the cause of the pinkness in Yessica Woahneil’s Cheekbone. Her love songs are simple, throughout we hear only Woahneil’s lone voice and her guitar, but they still manage jump around with pop melodies and emotions. Despite being alone on the recording, Woahneil is rarely quiet and never shy. On “Nobody Else But We” she is very upfront with her feelings, stating “I have loved you all my life” and in album highlight “Stella” she holds in her hands what lies within and offers them up as a gift, “Take these guts, I’ve spilled them for you,” she cries. Woahneil’s Cheekbone is delicate, soft, and she’s not afraid to show her true colours. – Laura Stanley

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Arkanjello – Shebammed EP

“Like Archangels but drunk” is how this New Brunswick duo describes themselves, and while their music doesn’t sound drunk, it’s certainly topsy-turvy. Unless you’re actively looking at the transitions between songs, it’ll be tough to know when one song has moved into the next; in the space of one song, the beats can shift from electronic to hip-hop to metal and back. The density makes for a totally unpredictable listen: “Huffing the f-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk out of Elmer’s Glue” is a surprisingly structured listen, anchored by the occasional “Oh fuck yeah,” but songs like “ORG” move from a medieval-sounding organ sample to something completely different. “60 Percent Woman” is a surprising ending, almost a folk song but backed by a flurry of electronics. It’s no surprise that this is bursting with ideas; Ian Livingstone (Artifiseer) helped the duo with this album. – Michael Thomas

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Cab Named Creekex – Made of Ghosts 

Made of Ghosts is a very apt title for Maxence Debacker’s (Cab Name Creekex) latest record. Throughout Debacker shares, with a powerful baritone whisper-like voice, stories of what and who haunts him, most predominately a girl. He pleads for simplicity and wishes she’d call him in “In A Day,” he’s in love with “The Girl In The Black Dress,” and dreams of her face in “Storm.”  Made of Ghosts is a haunting and spine-tingling listen that’s simple but rich with emotions. – LS

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

JoJo Worthington – \\

\\ or “Two Lines” is a work of catharsis. It’s at once sweeping and grand and extremely intimate. One of the latest release from Epoch Tapes, just like the label it is a thing of immense beauty. JoJo Worthington employs ukulele and synthesizer as her two primary weapons, sometimes building up experimental walls like in “Sojourner” while at other times allowing listeners a peek into her mind with songs like “Trinity, Father.” Either way, the result is stunning. Behold the shapeshifting wonder of “Abraham” before being knocked off your feet by “Cold War,” which takes advantage of the “cheery” sound of the ukulele to make for a jarring song about the end of the world and wasting away. Listen multiple times to get more and more glimpses into her crystalline world. – MT

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*

Phono D’enfant – Ambrose Psychic 

Do you remember the smell of the basement in your childhood home? Swinging so high on the swing you thought you’d flip right around the top bar? Riding your bike down a giant hill and feeling like you were about to fly? This is the type of nostalgia that comes to mind when listening to Phono D’enfant’s (Trevor Sloan) Ambrose Psychic. His music is quirky folk-pop that sounds breezy and generally as carefree as childhood is supposed to be. There’s two highlights in the record though: “Youth,” a euphoric sounding track that finds a young  Sloan asleep in the backseat of a mini-van on a road trip across america and the playful 70s-sounding “Look out Mr Pigeon!” that makes be think of Bert (of Bert and Ernie fame) and his love of pigeonsAmbrose Psychic makes for an individualized trip down memory lane and is a glorious ode to childhood. – LS

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Minotaurs – Weird Waves

To see Minotaurs live is always inspiring—the band’s sprawling membership and variety of instruments makes for a performance you can’t predict. On their latest recording, which came out back in March, just six songs allows a major expansion of the mind and whatever ideas of genre you have. Nathan Lawr et al. run through funk, pop, trip-hop and nearly anything you can imagine, all with grand arrangements. There’s swells of horns, there’s groovy bass, there’s lyrics that make you think, and the songs are constantly challenging you to not to twist and move in your seat as you listen. In opener “Underground Age” you’re asked “Is there something clearer than our own smokescreen?” In “Weird Waves” we hear about how obsessed we are with our “black mirrors.” In the closer “Echoes” we’re told “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.” We definitely have not heard anything like Weird Waves in some time. – MT

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Nick Zubeck – Skydiving 

Last week Quick Before It Melts put out the third instalment of their fantastic Dominionated series which included a contribution from Nick Zubeck. I had never heard of Zubeck before listening to his cover of The Silt’s “One Day Will Come” but his soft voice prompted me to look up his music and subsequently find his newest album Skydiving, released in March. Unlike its title, Skydiving has two feet firmly planted on the ground; its warm mix of folk, pop, and jazz is mature and confident. Zubeck sings of giving everything to the ones you love (“Tin Man”), the power of love (“Bound By Time”), and trying to live life in less of a hurry (“Primitive Patience”). It’s music for adults who understand what it means to feel settled amongst the chaos of the world. Uncork a bottle of wine that costs more than $15, kickback, and experience Skydiving. – LS

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Kaia Kater – Nine Pin 

Listening to music is one of the easiest way to time travel. You don’t have to mess with any rigged-up DeLoreans or any other time travelling device, just throw on a record and you’re transported to a world that is far from your own. Kaia Kater’s Nine Pin is one of those transportive records. Kater’s fervently plucked banjo and throwback Americana vibe brings you back to a time when the air was a little clearer and everything moved a lot slower. With a voice that initially reminded me of Gillian Welch but then grew to her own uniquely rich and powerful tool, Kater sings about racism (“Rising Down”), tells timeless stories of love (“Harvest and the Plough”) and life (“Little Pink”). In between, Kater and co. let loose in all-instrumental tracks straight from a barn bash like the foot-stomping fiddle-fueled closer “Hangman’s Reel.” In all, Nine Pin is a strong record from a bright new talent. – LS

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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4 comments

  1. […] Last we checked on Arkanjello, they were making super-weird, topsy-turvy experimental music. Now they’ve released their full-length and…they’re even weirder and even more experimental. Vegan Songs is a near borderless album. Though it’s divided into nine songs, there’s so much jumping around and genre fusion that this could almost function as a mixtape. […]

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