Fresh from our inbox: four Snappy Singles that you really need to hear.
Hearts & Knives, “It Is What It Is”
Back in September we featured “Braggadocio,” the debut single from Saskatchewan duo Hearts & Knives, which left a very lasting and positive impression upon us. Blending their brand of indie pop with some “Synthwave” influences, the pairing of Steven Eisler (vocals/keyboards) and Robert Lane (bass) have once again combined to create something completely stunning. Joined this time around by Ethan Bender (guitar) and Eder Garzona (percussion), Hearts & Knives return with another well produced single courtesy of Roman Empire Studios. If “Braggadocio” had your pulse racing, be prepared for a fully blown adrenaline rush when hearing this one.
Opening with Ethan’s distorted guitar, the atmosphere builds instantly, luring the listener into their slightly dark universe with some pounding drums and Steven’s distinct vocals. With less emphasis on the synth sounds, the indie pop gravitates towards the popular alt-rock territory. The retro synth sounds are still there; just muted to yield to this larger core sound. The added intensity also allows Steven to demonstrate the depth of his vocal range, which he teased us with during the last single, warming us up nicely for the full onslaught here. “[This] is one of my older songs I wrote years back and decided to rehash in this band,” explains Eisler. “It’s a very personal song about struggling to find where you fit in this life; dealing with people who don’t accept you, and ultimately your response.”
In awe of the brief musical shift and change of tempo found in “Braggadocio,” I was not at all disappointed to encounter this signature move once again, reveling in the temporary solitude of Robert’s smooth bass solo, before being thrust back into the heart and soul of those intense alt-rock riffs. “The reason I decided to record ‘It Is What It Is’ in 2018 was every single musician I’ve ever worked with in Hearts & Knives mentioned that this was ‘The Song’ that really sums up the band,” adds Eisler. “It’s a very special song to me and the project.” With two electrifying singles now on their resume, we crave much more from this talented SK band, and strongly urge everybody to add Hearts & Knives to your new music radar right now.
AlphaCub, “Last Chance Romance”
Birds chirping! Sound and speed distortion! If there ever were an award for best “25 second song intro,” stop the press right now and hand that collectible statuette to Toronto’s AlphaCub. While this unique intro certainly grabs your attention, it does not at all prepare you for the outstanding 3 minutes and 20 seconds of music that follows. There may be no shortage of synth-rock bands riding the popularity of this genre these days, but how many add a little soul and some funk grooves into the mix too? The answer is simple. One! AlphaCub stakes a convincing arrival to the game here with “Last Chance Romance.”
Originally hailing from Nova Scotia, Marc-Antoine Robertson not only moved to Ontario’s capital, but brought with him some “shimmering eighties synth, dancefloor-ready beats, and stadium-size energy in his recordings.” Robertson easily transports the listener back to earlier times when weekend revelers were dancing to the sounds of The Human League and other synth pioneers, through both his dominant vocals and perfectly reconstructed sounds of a decade that some chose to love, and others chose to forget. I’m firmly rooting myself with the “love” crowd here if it means getting lost in the moment that is the amazing sound offered by AlphaCub.
Joining forces with both acclaimed producer Gavin Whelehan and GRAMMY award-winning engineer Ken Lewis, AlphaCub’s sound is powered by “big drums and synthesizers,” that pair with Robertson’s dynamic and daring vocals incredibly well. “It’s a dysfunctional love song that exclaims mixing and fleeting feelings,” explains Robertson. “The result of a broken hearts predictable ebb and flow of emotions.” The groove here is outstanding, with some killer bass lines and sweet saxophone thrown in to really demand your attention. And while bands such as The Darcys and Dear Rouge may have revitalized the popularity of this genre, AlphaCub are completely reinventing the sound and raising the synth-pop culture to a whole new level.
Marie Mai, “Elle Et Moi”
There is never a shortage of great music coming out of Québec, and whether you are willing to embrace the French language or not, you cannot deny the quality of musicianship found in the province. We have long been fans of Québecois music, and discovered Marie Mai Bouchard back around the time she released her 2007 sophomore album, “Dangereuse Attraction.” Establishing a flourishing musical career that consistently fused her synth-pop roots with some powerful stadium alt-rock, the former finalist of the Quebec show ´Star Académie´ released five albums over the course of a decade, before bowing from the spotlight a few years ago to address events of a personal nature.
Fast forward to the present day, where an online video featuring a duet between Yann Perreau and Marie Mai quickly caught our attention. A quick internet search later and it was true: Marie Mai is back, and ready for a return to the spotlight with her brand new “Elle Et Moi” album. And whether your preferences err toward her earlier or later styles, you shall find plenty on offer here to satisfy your cravings. Releasing the title track as her debut single, this collaboration with popular Quebec Hip Hop artist Koriass is vintage Marie Mai. With an intro very reminiscent of her synth-pop origins, Marie Mai pays homage to her musical roots, with vocals that remain as powerful as ever, offering zero hints of having been on a musical hiatus. Her fans will quickly find comfort here, but will they be prepared for the gradual influence of her co-collaborator, culminating in a vocal explosion from Emmanuel Dubois himself?
As a fan of Bouchard from her early professional career, the knowledge of her return and new music is a true highlight of 2018 for me. Marie Mai may not be aware that her entire collection of CDs and concert DVDs travelled as far as south-central PA, but exposure to her music opened the door for so many other fabulous Québecois artists into our lives and listening pleasures. And having been naturally curious as to those non-music related aspects of her life maybe putting an end to her musical endeavors, this new release not only signifies her anticipated return, but confirms her status of one of Québec’s finest. “On the album, she and I, my mind, in constant contradiction, I let him speak without notice,” she recently posted on her Facebook page. “No restraint, no filter to embellish my insecurities and my truth. I wrote everything I needed to say, simply on a transparent background.”
Foxwarren, “To Be”
If, like me, you confess to be an active follower (junkie, even) of the Canadian music scene, then you too surely stopped dead in your tracks when first encountering the 2016 album, “The Party,” from Saskatchewan singer-songwriter, Andy Shauf? Listeners were treated to a spectacular trip down memory lane to the musical innocence of the 1970s. Filled to the brim with positive retro vibes, Shauf created an album that broke many barriers, especially during a time where revitalizing eighties music was the more fashionable choice for several of his musical contemporaries. If you too were moved by “The Party,” you will be absolutely blown away when spinning this debut single from Foxwarren.
Just a few seconds into the opening verse of “To Be,” and you shall find a familiar voice. Yes, Andy Shauf has returned, and is once again creating music that made “The Party” such an instant classic. Writing and recording under the name Foxwarren, Andy is joined here by long-time college friends Dallas Bryson (guitars/vocals), Darryl Kissick (bass) and Avery Kissick (percussion); and with over a decade invested in this collaboration, is naturally keen to reflect on this long-awaited debut single. “It was a guitar riff that I’d been playing for a few years at least, trying to figure out what to do with it,” explains Shauf. “[We] have a bad habit of never finishing vocal melodies and lyrics before we finish the music, so it made it a bit tricky and ended up being overhauled at the last minute.”
With his rapid ascension as a solo artist, Andy Shauf’s recording and touring schedule resulted in having to place Foxwarren on hold. Yet with the success of his solo ventures, and especially his most successful album to date, the timing could not be better to introduce this project to his audience. The slow strumming of an acoustic guitar draws comparisons to America, while the opening verse offer hints of James Taylor and Cat Stevens. NPR music even consider Foxwarren to share “the plainspoken timbre of a Paul Simon, albeit with a laconic Canadian drawl.” This single was one of the first songs written for the project. “We tinkered with it for ages and ended up drastically reworking it the weekend it was recorded,” states bassist Darryl Kissick. “We knew early on that it was going to be the opening song on the record.” Scheduled for release on November 30th via Arts & Crafts records, fans of Shauf should certainly be eager to check this one out.