Halifax singer-songwriter Jenn Grant's music has always been about resilience: her deceptively airy folk-pop has layers and depth, addressing subjects like mortality, grief and longing with clear-eyed simplicity and always with the capacity for healing. Grant's latest album, Love, Inevitable, is no exception. In interviews, Grant shared that this album was recorded during her pregnancy and early days of motherhood with her son, Gus. (Grant's co-parent is fellow musician and producer Daniel Ledwell.) However, it would be overly simplistic to say that this record is dedicated to the pure and overwhelming experience of motherhood Rather, it feels like a broader, more abstract tribute to change and an acknowledgement that parenthood is one of the many turning facets of human experience
Of all the album's 10 tracks, I kept returning to "Sweet Grass," which starts with Grant's dreamy, ruminative vocals and then kicks into a rollicking beat, a soaring vision of love during a summer twilight, and closes with a charming sound clip of Grant laughing to herself. Opener "Raven" is a stunner, with Grant wondering during its sweetly harmonized verses: "Honey, I don't know/if I should let you go." Her trilling soprano explodes in the chorus and the listener's heart (this listener at least) explodes into a thousand shards With Love, Inevitable, Grant once again enfolds the uncertainty of longing, love and life and infuses it with an inviting and melancholic warmth in that so-good-it-hurts kind of way.
SACRED PAWS RUN AROUND THE SUN Merge Records
While British musician Rachel Aggs may not be a household name on this side of the pond, her post-punk trio, Shopping, marked by boundless energy, angular guitars and a persistent thrill of political consciousness, has begun to make big waves.
Sacred Paws--sonically at least--feels like Aggs' "happier project." Joined by vocalist-percussionist Eilidh Rodgers, Sacred Paws' music is the sun-drenched, brassy yin to Shopping's dark and groovy yang The band's second full-length album, Run Around the Sun, serves as a deep exploration of anxiety, broken hearts and figuring out the future as it zips along at record pace with an irresistible verve.
An early album standout, "Life's Too Short," exemplifies the contrast between Aggs' ruminative lyrics and peppy musicianship Above a burst of ska-inspired horns and her trademark skittering guitar, she sighs, "I don't know what you think/Life's too short, I don't care" The idea of maintaining independence in the midst of a cooling partnership is a thread throughout the album. It continues with the synth-dappled "What's So Wrong," where Aggs sings, "Fresh air was everything/I don't know what's so wrong with being on my own. "
Run Around the Sun, like Shopping at its best, is political almost by virtue of its existence: Aggs and Rodgers often sing about being present and seeking happiness in a world that clamours to strip it away. In the album's most musically virtuosic piece, the two singers allow vocal, guitar and bass lines to intermingle, urging the listener to "Slow down... Don't wait til tomorrow. "
Sacred Paws has created a thoughtful and warm-hearted jam: they just want you to be okay, and maybe get a little dance in during the process.
WLMRT WLMRT FOREVER Self-released
The genesis of WLMRT is a classic Toronto punk fable. A few years ago, the group was asked to play a show at a now-defunct punk venue before having written a single song. Lucky for us, things worked out: the five-piece has since made its mark with cacophonous performances and a sound that's somehow black as pitch and whimsical at the same time. Vocalist Shelby Wilson's sardonic lyrics have a bright stream-of-consciousness delivery.
The sound on WLMRT Forever is clear as a bell but doesn't sacrifice an iota of WLMRT's perfect dankness Meanwhile, the band members have stepped up compositionally, with bassist Kat McGouran entwining with Alex Wood's drums to create a constant death-dance stomp.
The overall effect (augmented with an occasional sax line) feels like a punk witches' sabbat held in a psychedelic funhouse We're brought back to terra firma by Wilson's words, which--camouflaged in her sing-songy delivery--go deep, skewering art scenes in rapidly gentrifying cities like Toronto "Jam Band" seems to be directed at a healthy subsection of ubiquitous scenesters who subscribe to the music marketing machine: "Their parents support them/what a surprise," Wilson quips "Lime green tote bag/it will match their vinyl!"
WLMRT Forever puts WLMRT a cut above with its harsh yet poetic urgency.
REVIEWS BY ALISON LANG