A Few Overlooked Acts in 2017: The half-way through edition

by Kaitlin Ruether, Laura Stanley & Michael Thomas

We owls review a lot of music but always end up feeling like we could review MORE! To quell that feeling, twice a year we make a list of albums that almost passed us by but feel must be celebrate. Enjoy!

Castle If – Plant Material

Castle If’s Plant Material is a collection of compositions that swoop from cosmic near-alien synth lines to complexly rooted (yes, rooted) melodies inspired by plants. Five of the seven pieces take on the scientific names for tropical plants, the clinical tone of which adds to the curious ambience. Each song contains single or double synth line melodies — save for the cinematic album outlier “Sansevieria Trifasciata” — that either rise and fall with inhuman grace or call back to classical or latin-american inspired compositions. By including a vastness of history and geography, Castle If creates hooks that will float along in your head until the next track begins. Plant Material soars from note to note, track to track, as though guiding you through a trance, then asks you to listen closely for your own melody amidst the soft pulsing of “Polypodium Aureum”. By the end, you’re either up in the cosmos, or deeply grounded here on Earth. The choice is left to you. – Kaitlin Ruether

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Kye Plant – After the Hospital 

On After the Hospital, Kye Plant is honest about the difficult state they are in: “I’m not doing well, I’m sorry to say,” they sing in “Cope”. “Goddamn this is troubling,” Plant sings in “Lion Tamer”. But at its core, After the Hospital is an ode to living. It’s about the aftermath of a shitty period and realizing that you’re stronger than you thought you were. Downcast, lo-fi pop is the backdrop to the EP – the keyboard melody on “Flying High” sounds like it’s being played on the miniature Casio that I had as a kid. This instrumentation seems to only make lines like, “Cut out my heart but I won’t break” (“Flying High”) and “I’m learning to cope” (“Cope”) shine brighter. There is hope After the Hospital. – Laura Stanley

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Eschaton – Eschaton and friends at La Passe

Recorded live inside a Montreal space that no longer exists, Eschaton will show you what “soulful noise” means. The recording is two sides, each a little over 20 minutes, featuring Eschaton by themselves and later with Aaron Lumley and the brick trio. The improvisational nature of the music means some sections will be sparse, such as the gonging bell at the beginning of the recording, but others aren’t afraid to turn up the electronics and create long stretches of drone-y music. Let’s not forget some screeching horns and saxophones to add a bit more tension to the music and the result is 45 minutes of noise you can get yourself completely lost in. – Michael Thomas

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Finn – Godsend

According to FINN’s Facebook page, they are as unlikely to remain solely in their home base of Winnipeg as they are to bond to one genre. This affinity for fluidity is apparent on Godsend. The opening track could place on the alternative rock charts for all the electric hooks and repeated vocal slivers but is then pushed aside for the more long-term rewarding originality of “Lines”, and “Mason Hall”, which showcase the group’s rhythmic prowess for experimental shifts. The final two tracks on the album let loose with exploration of genre, playing with large-scale Canadiana that requests “Oh Lord, give me something I can break”, before “River’s Shore (remix)” dabbles in electronic synth-pop with low-key percussion. FINN haven’t put boundaries on their indie rock, so we have to wait in anticipation of where they’ll go next. – KR

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Sarah Davachi – All My Circles Run

Sarah Davachi’s explorations have been featured on the blog in the past and they never fail to captivate us. When listening to All My Circles Run: the bundle of nerves that (almost permanently) resides at the top of my stomach is unraveled. Each strand is gently pulled out from the bundle and all the stubborn little knots are shaken loose. I trade the chaos of the summer in the city for Davachi’s placid currents and I can breathe. While the song titles of the album specify what each song is for – Strings, Voice, Organ, Piano – I feel that All My Circles Run is for me. And it will be for you too. – LS

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Leonard Mostacci – One

The music of Leonard Mostacci makes me feel as peaceful as listening to one of the best albums of last year, Un Blonde’s Good Will Come To You. Mostacci plays almost everything on this album himself, and it’s sometimes incredible to think he was able to produce so much of this complex, jazz-flavoured offering. “Breathing Space” leads it off almost as if it’s giving you literal breathing space. A gentle swell of piano and nature-y sounds draws you in, and then the gentle guitars of “The Wall Theory” will keep you relaxed. “Franny” seems inspired by bossa nova and slowly blossoms as percussion and an extra guitar line come in. On the one song where Mostacci sings, “Fishbowl,” his language is visceral, describing something as “Cool to the touch, it pulls at your shirt ’til it frays.” The added trumpet and clarinet from Franklin Yuen-Buchanan and Aleem Khan, respectively, make it a standout. At just 21 years old, Mostacci has a bright future ahead of him. – MT

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

The Shiverettes – Dead Men Can’t Cat Call

The Shiverettes describe themselves as “snotty feminist punks” and charge their sound with the ideology loaded in those three words. With Dead Men Can’t Cat Call, these Calgary-based punks remind us that the riot grrrl mentality is as necessary now as ever before, and drive their message with musical capability. Hayley Muir summons her built-for-punk voice to power tracks like “Broken Record” and “Missing Stair”, while Kaely Cormack’s guitar pacing shifts (“Dead Men Can’t Cat Call” and “Bad For Me”) keep the listener on their toes, attentive, and ready to be called to action. The real bomb drop occurs with “Justice Robin Camp”, which reminds us of how much we need fearless creators like The Shiverettes. The track takes its name from an infamous Alberta judge who told a sexual assault victim that she should have kept her knees together — a phrase repeated with venom in the track. The sentiment continues in “Shout Your Assault” before the quartet conclude with “Lockdown”, a fight song and a rallying cry. To fuel your fight, I recommend a good shout-a-long with The Shiverettes. – KR

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Timber Timbre – Sincerely, Future Pollution

Timber Timbre’s album-cover aesthetic has almost always been black-and-white. It’s almost always an object cast in shadow. The album cover for Sincerely, Future Pollution is a dense and crowded cityscape, reflecting both the band’s change in music and thematic content. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said variations of “The world is fucked” this year but Timber Timbre’s album was directly inspired by the horrendous political events of last year and it showed. While I’ll miss the sax-heavy sounds of Hot Dreams, Taylor Kirk et al. use 80s-esque synths to bring listeners back to a darker time. Lyrically, there’s many references to forgetting, willfully or otherwise, and being distracted. At times the music is very calming and even groovy, but it’s all a facade. Songs like “Grifting” hint at what’s coming, but it’s not until “Moment” when Kirk begins to put to music the ugly side of last year. The breezy synths are suddenly crushed to death by loud, aggressive guitars. “Western Questions” poses a number of eerie images from which it will take a few minutes to unpack their metaphors. By the time you get to “Floating Cathedral,” you’ll never trust anything calm or inoculating again. Consider these lyrics: “The king of devotion is death on Instagram.” I’ll say it again: the world is fucked, and Timber Timbre make that more than abundantly clear. – MT

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

Belinda Corpuz – All I Am

Belinda Corpuz is looking to feel safe on All I Am. It’s an album that’s about being secure in your own skin as much as it is about feeling safe with the people who surround you. “Hold my hand, say it’ll be okay, keep me safe,” she sings in the wistful “Waiting”. On “Storm,” Corpuz repeats “a storm’s coming but we’ll keep moving on” as a barrage of distorted guitar tries unsuccessfully to overtake her and then to end the album (“Holy Hands”) she triumphantly calls out, “Call me out from this place, let doubt be erased so I may stand on my own.” Sonically, the album is also a comfort. Folk, pop, and a bit of jazz have been softly folded into one another to make for a delicate offering that’s topped with Corpuz’s hushed and skilled vocals – she has a quiet confidence. – LS

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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