reviewed by Michael Thomas
You could try to come up with a vividly descriptive world-analogue for the music Montreal’s Max T has put forth with Palm Isle, his debut EP, but chances are your description won’t quite do it justice. You’d need the kind of imaginations that created the worlds of Adventure Time or Steven Universe to really capture the sense of joy, nostalgia, and—if you’ll allow me to be corny for a moment—magic that songs like “Terror, Bright” or “Strawberry” evoke.
When I raved about “Terror, Bright” a few weeks ago, I was struck by the energy of the song, which is so bursting with colour and forward momentum that it conjured at once a million images in my head. The various synth parts all fuse together into something terrifying and bright, as though it’s creating a utopia that you know will never exist; still, you try to get to it.
While “Terror, Bright” is no doubt the standout of the EP, the world of Palm Isle is no less exciting in other places. Max T has said his music draws from his childhood, and the opening, old-timey sample that begins “Wonderland” will make you think you’re about to watch a classic Disney movie or something. But it quickly moves onto a leisurely, vaguely tropical melody, but you can hear the electronics slowly creeping into the mix until they dominate the soundscape. A wonderland indeed.
The title track recently got the video treatment, and the location is, you guessed it, an island with palm trees. The twinkling synths are sounds perfect for accompanying tranquility, and Max T purposefully makes himself look out of place there, an interesting wrinkle in what, up until this point, seemed like a work that draws on remembrance of the past.
“Time Is” gets much heavier, almost sounding like it’s groaning under the weight of its sounds, before “Strawberry,” with its harp-filled opening, advances that narrative even more with its lyrics about growing up and memories fading away. As the song goes by, the music gets more and more warped, possibly representing the way our own recollections of the past change over time.
Max T’s debut is nothing more than brilliant. There’s so many colours and sounds that I think I’ll have to end the review with this, which represents my feelings on Palm Isle:
Top Track: “Terror, Bright”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*