reviewed by Michael Thomas
If anyone was expecting something bright and sugary from Slow Down Molasses’ latest album, those people don’t know the band well enough. Besides the nearly pitch-black cover, it’s also prudent to remember that narratives from the prairies tend to look a little bleaker than narratives from most other Canadian locations. With this in mind, it’s easy to see that 100% Sunshine was a name chosen in irony.
The band has been a workhorse for some time, their last effort last year’s Burnt Black Cars. Not even a year-and-a-half later, the band is still releasing music with ambitious themes: losing yourself, wanting fame and more. You can almost feel Tyson McShane feeling some kind of release amid the wall of blistering guitars that greet many of the songs.
Vocals are harder to make out in shoegaze songs in general, but when they’re distinguishable, they’re usually meaningful. Amid the soaring chords of “Intentions,” for instance, McShane repeats “I gave myself away.” At what price does fame come? Losing a piece of yourself. The spectre of depression lingers over “Night Terrors,” which begins with McShane saying “I was wasted again at sunrise” three times. Though “No Riots” is a quieter song instrumentally—and McShane’s vocals are barely above a whisper—it feels like he’s trying to find some positive energy as he says “We can find a dream.”
The album doesn’t just wallow in sadness, however; the band is crackling with energy, from the guitar fury of quick opener “Faeries on High” and the raucousness of “Moon Queen.” In other places, the band channels other influences, like the Britpop-y feel of “Levitation Sickness.” Piano, meanwhile, adds a sense of urgency to “Terminator iii vs Amon Duul ii.”
Perhaps the coolest production is on “Ghosts & Vodka,” a song that adds in its own aural ghosts with McShane’s modified vocals, which becomes less distinguishable but more ghostly in the second verse of the song.
While there is despair, things seem to calm down quite a bit for “Flowers” and “You Made Me a Ghost.” Jeanette Stewart takes over vocals on these last two, and the songs that were previously chaotic become almost comforting. So perhaps there’s some sunshine in the prairies after all.
Top Tracks: “Intentions”; “Ghosts & Vodka”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)