After a full month of hip hop was successfully pummelled into my system in preparation for our last house party, I’ve switched gears pretty drastically into more of a shoegaze, vaporwave, psychedelic rock run. It must be the looming of the cold, and the rise of midterms that has made the shift seem so natural, but it’s one I’ve embraced – it comes in pulses. Here are a few of my new dream pop meets indie alternative favourites, both new and old, in a semi-deliberate order:
ELSA – “Am I With You?”
After first hearing these Toronto musicians at Wolfe Island Music Festival last summer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting their upcoming album. They are a bit of a mysterious band, with assortments of their releases scattered across the web. “Am I With You?” comes off their 2013 EP In Two, which I had to grind off their bandcamp. I’m a big fan of Elsa’s ultra-dreamy pads they create during verses, and of course that Real Estate-esque guitar tone.
PORCHES – “Car”
The one out-of-town musician on my list hails from New York, and has blessed our ears with his 6th release Pool just last week. “Car” is more dream pop sounding than the rest of the album, and builds off those low-pass filtered synths layered with sonic guitar that marches on in a Young Rival sounding fashion.
BELIEFS – “Violets”
As veteran of the Hand Drawn Dracula record family, members of Beliefs have jumped between various bands in the shoegaze scene in Toronto. My personal favourite track, comes from their older toned-down 2 track LP Catching My Breath / Violets released in 2012. The song is pretty dynamic, and returns to a very catchy rift that neither sounds heavy nor laid back.
WALRUS – “Banger”
These east coast punks have been taking the psychedelic rock scene by storm lately, with performances at Pop Montreal and Halifax Is Burning. This band was meant for a decked out basement, flashing lights and a crowd ready to party. “Banger” off the 2014 record Glam Returns is everything you’d hope from a song with such a title – but don’t be fooled, this song will take you for a ride you weren’t expecting. Keep your eyes on these guys.
WISH – “All The Time”
Cut off Hand Drawn Dracula’s label from Toronto, this group has members that have played a gig or two in the genre. This track is my favourite off their self-titled record WISH from 2014. Leave this song on after hitting a few, and you’ll be lead through a blissfully, dazed sound filled with that oh-so-sweet muffled guitar sound. Kyle Connoly’s vocals help to keep you grounded through this stoned-rock jam.
BASEMENTS – “A Voice”
This trio from Toronto has done a great job telling a cool story on their 2014 self-titled release BASEMENTS, which features my favourite track “A Voice”. Jessica Paton provides welcomed supporting vocals on this youthful-fairytale sounding track. Leave room at the end for a great head banging jam.
TOPS – “2 Shy”
The Montreal veterans behind TOPS have been gigging their unique synthpop sound for a few years now. “2 Shy” is a track of their second release Picture You Staring from 2014. Lead singer Jane Penny’s really shines on this track, as she treats listeners to her iconic angelic falsetto. Tracks like this don’t get much more of casual or dreamy.
SUNSHINE & THE BLUE MOON – “Sunshine and Lucy”
It’s rare that you hear about music from Thunder Bay, but these 5 psychedelic rock goons have been doing a great job embodying the sounds of the surf. “Sunshine and Lucy” off their record Electric is particularly sexy – I feel like I’m caught amidst a lovers weekend away in the woods. Simple, fun, reminiscent of summer.
HOMESHAKE – “I Don’t Wanna”
Peter Sagar has crafted yet-another fireside-ready album filled with all the comforts that dreamy lo-fi indie rock can bring. “I Don’t Wanna” off of his 2015 release Midnight Snack feels like just the right mixture of his signature reverb-heavy vocals, soft cymbal crashes and elegant guitar rifts. Classical.
DEERHUNTER – “Helicopter”
I’ll admit I am a new Deerhunter fan, but these rockstars have weidling fire since 2001. “Helicopter” is rainbow road meets ambient punk, and comes off their 2010 release Halcyon Digest. I can’t stop listening to this song and don’t plan on it. It’s an incredibly euphoric, melodic tune that achieves a beautiful full sound. Listen with the speakers cranked.
SEOUL – “Haunt / A Light”
Think Goldroom meets Half Moon Run, and that’s where you’ll find Montreal’s indie-alternative synth pop group Seoul. This track off 2015’s I Become A Shade is a hazy romantic journey with a solid shoegaze backbone, that still manages to achieve their signature clean, polished sound.
VULVA CULTURE – “Phantom Limb”
Our second east coast feature also hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia with a track off their major 2015 release In Vain. With a haunting, dazed out sound, these ladies have made music that sounds like the soundtrack to your weirdest dream – a slow melancholic dance.
ETIQUETTE – “Pleasantries”
“Pleasantries” off these Toronto natives 2015 release Reminisce, blends together a variety of ethereal sounds found across many dream pop / vapour pop artists. It’s a soft experimental sort of journey, that tugs you along before releasing it’s grip. A great way to end this playlist, and a reminder of how many directions shoegaze and dreampop can really go.
Good luck with midterms, happy reading week +++
Three months ago Bobby Uzöma released his first track, Sleeve. Sleeve features a simple and minimalist beat which serves to open up the space Bobby needs in order to layer and combine his often haunting vocals, growing in complexity throughout. The result is a beautiful dream-pop song reminiscent of the cold, dark winters experienced in his hometown, Calgary. A month later Bobby released his second track Idioglossia, a word that refers to a language only spoken by either one individual, or a very small, extremely tight-knit, group of people. Once again Bobby uses a simple yet well textured beat to underpin Idioglassia throughout. Though the lyrics are simple Bobby delivers them with tangible sadness as the song slowly builds and eventually explodes into a catchy dream-pop beat. Two amazing tracks from some great new Canadian talent. Check him out.
I want to compare this guy to the talents of our time and prior – if only to try and understand the sheer mastery on display. I genuinely do.
There’s the vocal control and songwriting like Frank Ocean along with a falsetto that reads like a humbler, more organic version of The Weeknd’s. It’s hard not to pick up on the natural trap elements that brings the likes of Bryson Tiller and Ty Dolla $ign to mind. Although subtle, there are performance elements that beckon Prince and choral arrangements that feed off 90’s R&B influences Boyz II Men, 112, and Backstreet.
But I don’t think tracing derivatives or comparisons do dvsn justice – or have a place for that matter. This is music that comes from such a genuine and vulnerable place that its value, to both an individual listener and to music culture as a whole, is lost when trying to accept it as anything less than authentic.
Toronto’s dvsn has released four songs to date, now available across all major streaming services. Nobody knows who he is or what he looks like. This strategy, employed successfully by the likes of The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Burial, has quietly become a winning strategy for talented artists. It effectively lets the music stand on its merit while harvesting a deep, genuine intrigue for the artist’s brand that money could never buy. What we do know is that dvsn is affiliated with known OVO producer Nineteen85, who architected “Hotline Bling” (!) and “Hold On We’re Going Home” (!!) – so there’s that.
dvsn does so much right. Each of his songs thus far creates a distinct setting that is so confident in its theme and voice. There is such command over the higher level structure of the composition that a song can go so many different places, change tempos, and strip down layers so effectively before you hit the track’s halfway mark. Instrumentally, the tracks themselves are crafted with so much care for what all the pieces sound like together. There is never a reliance upon any one element (ie. percussion, keyboard riff). Instead, there are multiple layers, uniquely engineered sounds (from vocal samples to keyboards), and carefully placed hits that are sublimely sparse enough to let the vocals shine through while still keeping the tracks moving.
Admittedly, the crux, or thesis, of this article isn’t overly earth-shattering: simply put, I want you to want to listen to dvsn. To be clear, this is very different from me just wanting you to listen to a four-letter Canadian artist – instead, I think that if you appreciate music on any level, whether it be technical, aesthetic or whatever, you owe it to yourself to indulge in everything right about music’s craft in 2015.
 Not a comparison
I’ll return to an album for a whole variety of reasons. Some out of nostalgia, some to curb a craving, others to build a mood. But I can never quite put my finger on why I return to ‘Beyond Wilderness‘ from Canada’s own Gold & Youth. It usually just feels right.
Gold & Youth’s first foray into the music sphere began before their debut 2013 release. Members Matt Lyall, Murray Mckenzie and Jeff Mitchelmore explored a side project earlier known as The Racoons which produced a single record ‘Islomania’. When that project faded, the members brought on Louise Burns from Lillix and secured a record deal with Arts & Crafts in 2011. From here, the band began writing what would become the soundscape known as ‘Beyond Wilderness’.
‘Beyond Wilderness‘ feels vibrantly unsaturated. Both full of colour, but overwhelmingly grey. Synthesizer textures have an airy feel, rarely punching out aggressively in the mix, but always thoughtful in their form. Guitar is often layered heavily, providing soft melodies, almost out of tune at times. Vocal harmonies explore both the higher limits of Burns and the depths of Lyall, with Mckenzie providing a consistent range throughout. Some tracks have quite a dark feel and others bright. Their mix rarely spotlights any one instrument, but rather blends them into a comfortable textured sound. It’s a melancholic, but rich sound. One that echoes and rings across every track – no doubt inspired by the mountains and ranges surrounding their home base in Vancouver.
A personal favourite on the album is City Of Quartz, which features a rapidly oscillating drum pad overlain with a euphoric lo-fi guitar line that dances through the chorus effortlessly. Something I think would impress the Lo-Fi champ DeMarco himself. If your looking for an anthem on the album, look no further than Jewel. Also carried along by a constantly evolving drum track, this song instead focusses on a story which builds and builds. Burns calls out over the track, “Down on my knees, nothing to lose… so won’t you tell me what to do?”. Her sound in many ways reminiscent of Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne in ‘The Sprawl’. Another honourable mention is the records second track Little Wild Love, which showcases Lyall’s vocal style perfectly, two tracks mixed uniformly: one which rings out high intensity, the other low and soft.
Little Wild Love:
However if you only give this band a once-off, throw on Time To Kill, which could be considered an emblem of the group. It showcases much of what I love about this band: the eloquently somber backbone, the finished melodies,the textured keyboard and tranquil yet powerful vocals. A great addition to any ambient indie mixtape:
Few albums I know go in as many directions as this one – gripped me quite like this one has. I’ve logged over 38 hours with Gold & Youth and needless to say I’m eager for more. From updates online, the band seems to be busy at work in the studio with no real word on a release date. Keep with The Vault to hear our first thoughts when it drops.
Jesse Gold’s debut album circles around the theme of a beautifully broken heart. There is no doubt this Toronto bred artist has snuck up on your instagram explore page, or suggested soundcloud listens. From covering Kanye to Carrie Underwood, Gold really knows no boundaries and that remains evident throughout “On Our Own”.
The singer/ songwriter takes a more pop country side of things during the debut track “Pretty Girl” and continues with that theme throughout. It is evident just by the titles of these tracks that this album is dedicated to lost love and the struggle of losing someone. Gold still manages to take an otherwise depressingly honest lyrical layer and pair it with summerlike melodies making us confused as to how we can enjoy his pain so much. Overall, On Our Own proves to be an impressive and unapologetically honest LP and one that will undoubtedly be playing through our stereos over this holiday season.
Jesse Gold has now released two videos for the singles Pretty Girl and Holding My Breath, both directed by his talented older brother Daniel- what a sibling duo.
Library Voices is a group of childhood friends formed in the basements of Regina. LOVISH, their second full length LP is set to release this Friday, November 5th. The album opens with the line “All of your heroes, they’re all assholes/but that don’t mean you should piss on your dreams” This theme continues for the next forty or so minutes while the once ten piece, now six piece band somehow both dances and stomps on your heart while shit talking our present world just enough for you to love it. LOVISH, a much darker album compared to their last LP, Summer of Lust is a reflection on a confusing and cynical outlook on love and life. Most, if not all artists struggle with the theme of love. Library Voices grasps the theme of loss and acceptance of losing love during youth in a refreshing way, making a beautifully broken heart something that we long for.
With their preppy and polished sound in their past, Library Voices has released an album full of concise indie hooks, saxophone and analog synths. This guitar centric 11-song affair is nothing less than an unapologetically honest work of art. Well still staying true to their up-tempo vibe the band describes the album as “our stab at bastardizing classic rock.” There is something so very raw about Library Voices to me; I have never heard something that makes me want to run through damp dimly lit street while dancing, laughing and crying all at once. LOVISH truly is an out of body experience. The band recorded this album in in an old funeral home, which is evident in their new more grungy sound. My recommendation to you for the perfect first listen is turn the lights down and the volume up- scream, cry, get high, do it all.
Stream the album on CBC until Friday:
Queen’s very own Devan & Khalid have recently announced the exciting news that they will now be performing as Wild Rivers! They have expanded the band to 4 members, adding drummer Ben Labenski and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Oliver. Over the years, we have all learned to fall in love with Devan & Khalid and I’m sure many of us have been to at least one of their shows. They recently made this announcement and followed it up with a high energy outdoor performance at Queen’s Homecoming. Their set was absolutely amazing, as they kept the huge crowd singing and dancing the whole time.
I recently checked out their debut single “Wandering Child” and was blown away. It is everything I imagined and more! Their music is still anchored in the folk roots that we are familiar with, but now, with a full band, it has evolved to a more expansive and full-bodied sound that layers beautifully to compliment Devan & Khalid’s harmonies. The lyrics are honest, insightful and vulnerable in a way that really allows us to connect to the artists. And yes, the chorus is infectiously catchy, just as we have come to expect from Devan & Khalid!
I have always loved their music and of course, they are incredibly talented musicians with so much potential. But now, with Wild Rivers, 2 new band members and a renewed commitment to their art, I truly believe that they will fully reach that potential. When I first heard that Devan & Khalid would continue pursuing music as Wild Rivers I couldn’t help but feel like they were doing something so refreshing, especially in this day and age, where so many young people are worried about what job they will get or how they are going to fit into the “real world”. I think that Devan, Khalid, Ben and Andrew are showing that maybe it isn’t so much about how your are going to fit into the “real world”, but more about how you are going to be happy in your own world. I really hope that this serves as an inspiration, and an encouraging nudge to any musician out there who is on the fence about whether or not to follow their passion.
“We felt like we owed it to ourselves to follow our dreams and pursue something we truly loved. We haven’t looked back.”
– Devan & Khalid
This is part 1 of many, and I can’t wait to continue to cover their progress as they embrace their new identity, as Wild Rivers!
Stay tuned friends.
In true City and Colour fashion If I Should Go Before You, is transendiary. Dallas Green encapsulates everything we love about his music in this album. Folk, Rock and sultry acoustics flow through our speakers and into our hearts. This album, like his others, is a love letter to the lovesick. The music makes us believe that his voice can heal our broken hearts and sew up all our open wounds. His anger and grief that comes across lets the listener feel with him and understand the lyrics in their own personal way. Some tracks on this album, like Wasted Love are more uplifting and less “Save Your Scissors”-esque. But a song like “Friends” draws us in with its gritty and vulnerable vocals, almost like someone close to you telling a story you never want to stop hearing. City and Colour never comes up short and we continue to be in awe of Dallas Green because of it. This album is a magnitude of sound that makes us want to snuggle up with a hot cup of tea and let all our troubles subside for a while. If I Should Go Before You, has a little pop influence that can be heard in songs like “Lover Come Back” and “ Map of the World”. Green is channeling a pop-folk vibe, showing us that although he is sticking to his original sound, he is incorporating new styles into his music in order to stay fresh in an ever evolving musical world. By no means are we saying that City and Colour is hanging up his melancholy and trading it in for a synthesizer, but the new album definitely shows us Green is able to grow without straying to far from his roots. This album is another tribute to the magic that lives inside a man with too many sorrows. Dallas, we salute you, this album rocks.
Enoch Ncube of “Enoch Loves You”, a Toronto based artist fresh out of Queens, recently contacted the Vault. Admittedly, I had no idea who this mystery artist was, so I found out. I was blown away by his unique style and one song in particular “import.file” really caught my attention.
Right away you get drawn into a transic beat, which made me feel like I was walking down a dark alleyway in the middle of the night. The lyrics that follow are short but to the point, and that point is Enoch can drop some fucking bars.
His flow is comparable to that of a less angry Tyler the Creator, or Childish Gambino if we turned down the BPM on his tracks. It’s a consistent flow of ear nourishing fire.
I reached out to Enoch to find out a bit about his inspiration. When he told me “Kanye, Tyler the Creator, Flying Lotus, and Kevin Abstract” were some of his inspirations, it did not come as much of a shocker. The Flying Lotus influence was easy to pick out in the foundations of his beat, however I also sensed some Flume vibes at work around the 1:12 mark in the song.
He just finished a colab about five months ago with an artist named Erez, but I cannot wait to hear what more’s to come. I’ll leave you with this quote fron Enoch, “Stevie Wonder is my god, Pharrell is my musical father and Kid Cudi is my Jesus”.