With the arrival of Spring comes the urge to get out of the house and attend some live shows. This ultimately lessens the time spent checking out some of the most recent releases, and for Team GDW, requests from artists and publicists to sample music that may appeal to our tastes. Not wanting to fall behind with sharing such listening pleasures, this latest installment of “Snappy Snippets” features music from four artists that have recently been brought to our attention.
Lewisburg, “Slow Morning / Terminal”
Team GDW received an email from the UK in early April, from British band Lewisburg, asking if we would be interested in reviewing their latest double A-Side “Slow Morning/Terminal.” I’m sure that lead singer/songwriter Ali Robertson assumed we would gloss over such a request, so craftily added that Lewisburg include The Deep Dark Woods as one of their musical influences, and that one of the band members is indeed a Canadian. Well, how could we deny such a request when Ali had taken the time to entice us with such essential key words? How could we ignore a band that shares a name with a town very local to us here in central PA? Okay Ali, you got this!
Based out of North London, Lewisburg describe themselves as ‘Dark Country,’ an alt-indie guitar focused band whose influences include Phosphorescent, Ryan Adams and The Eels. Originally a solo endeavor by Robertson, the band has steadily grown to include Julian Baraness (guitar), Alessandro Taglione (bass) and Adrian Latge (percussion). Some quick research about Lewisburg led me to discover that a previously released track “Nowhere Man” had received significant radio airplay in Los Angeles.
Listening to the two new tunes, both share a unique key sound, yet the stylistics are very much polar opposites. A review on Americana-UK.com describes “Slow Morning” as “slow and sinuous and downright groovy in its tentative indecision.” Whilst in agreement with this assessment, my initial impression was that this track is definitely more alt-indie than dark-country, although the combination of the laid-back blues guitar that builds up through the first verse and chorus, and the southern-boogie guitar solo prompted uncontrollable foot tapping at times. “Terminal” wastes no time bringing back those dirty guitar riffs from the first track, but this time things are a little faster paced, a little grittier, and much more aligned with that dark-country sound. Part The Deep Dark Woods, part Neil Young (and hints of Thom Yorke), Lewisburg have created the perfect flip-side to the charm of “Slow Morning.” Recommended listening, and I look forward to the soon-to-be-released EP.
Sc Mira, “Drug Warm Coma”
Hailing from Winnipeg, MB, the duo of singer-songwriter Sadye Cage and guitarist Ty Vega formed Sc Mira back in 2013. Just two years later, their debut full-length album “Waiting Room Baby” was released. Fast forward to late 2017, and Sc Mira have grown from a duo to a five-piece band, adding Caro LaFlamme (keyboards), Mario Lagesse (bass) and Jed Desilets (percussion) along the way. Developing a synth-driven rock sound as their musical core, Sc Mira follow up their 2017 “Keep Crawling” EP with “Drug Warm Coma;” the second successive EP that once again embraces their signature sound.
Listening to the new track “Give It Up,” my first introduction to Sc Mira drew immediate comparisons to the sound of Metric; especially their earlier and more industrial brand of rock-electronica. As with Emily Haines, vocalist for Metric, Sadye Cage possesses a distinct vocal delivery that serves to complement the synth sounds, yet is dominant enough to demand your full attention. Produced in tandem with pop-producer and composer Ferro Montanino, Sc Mira’s synth-driven foundation meshes perfectly with Ferro’s extensive knowledge of the electronica and pop genres; creating a sound that the band dub “death pop.”
Turning my attention to “Noose,” I discover something much edgier. With plenty of darkness (and a modicum of an Alvvays vibe), this track definitely embodies that death-pop sentiment; offering industrial guitars, heavily distorted keys and Cage’s quivering, yet sinister vocals. If Metric’s music has progressed towards the light (mainstream) with their more recent material, Sc Mira are more than willing to lure their listeners into their darker universe. Indeed, per the band’s bio on their web-site, this is music designed to “make you uncomfortable, but once you get over the initial shock, you’ll realize that you are hearing something new for the first time.” If you are looking for something a little different, Sc Mira offer a great place to start your journey.
Hearing Trees, “Quiet Dreams”
Moving from death-pop to indie-rock, we turn our attention now to Hearing Trees, another band that calls Winnipeg home. Founded by singer-songwriter Grahan Hnatiuk, Hearing Trees recently followed up their previous 2 EP releases with a new, debut full-length album titled “Quiet Dreams.” Per the artists’ bio, Hearing Trees “lush, layered brand of ambient and anxious rock is built atop a foundation inspired by genre stalwarts like REM, Matthew Good, and The Tragically Hip; and tinged with the more modern and atmospheric musings of Wintersleep and The National.”
Upon hearing the opening track “Lights Out,” the quick explosive guitar intro leads into Hnatiuk’s opening verse, which definitely offers that ‘REM meets The Tragically Hip’ sound experience. From the indie-rock guitar sound alone, hints of early Soul Asylum and some nineties U2 can be detected. Yet amongst all of these associated sounds, “Lights Out” is incredibly original, throwing in a few drum and synthesizer influences to really keep the listener both engaged and surprised. Go ahead and proceed to “Fishing,” which has a very distinct Hip influence, yet is wrapped in that more modern ‘retro-synth’ sound synonymous with the likes of Kodaline. Belting out the lyrics “Don’t wait for me / I might not come home tonight / No hero from the silver screen / Ever said / What I would say,” Hnatiuk’s deliberate pauses and staggered delivery channels Gord Downie’s trademark style perfectly.
Yet amidst these dark songs and captivating lyrics are a constant theme surrounding the seriousness of mental illness; a subject very much at the forefront of Hnatiuk’s songwriting and personal experiences. “I had a serious mental episode and almost ended up in the hospital,” he explains, “My life wasn’t going in the right direction, but I found solace and inspiration in art and music.” Hnatiuk adds that his musical vision essentially saved his sanity, and with this debut full-length album, “the creative seeds sown years ago have come to full fruition.” With ten originally-penned tracks, this impressive debut from Hearing Trees is essential listening for those willing to navigate the darker recesses of their minds, and tackle the uncomfortable stigma of mental illness head on.
The Stephen Stanley Band, “Jimmy & The Moon”
As a fan of The Lowest of the Low, just seeing the name Stephen Stanley in the subject line of an email was enough to grab my attention. Having followed LOTL over the last few years, my familiarity with Stephen’s work was long after his departure from the band, leaving me with just those few old CDs as reminders of his past works. Stanley happened to be performing at Graffiti’s in downtown Toronto last summer, on an evening when we were in town, but headed to another show. It was this time, however, that his name became etched in my psyche, along with the knowledge of his “Jimmy & The Moon” material (and band) that was ready to return to the music scene.
Fast forward to May 2018 and “Jimmy & The Moon” is set to be released here in the US and Europe too (the album was released in late November in Canada). I must confess to having some reservations when faced with giving this one a spin (I really didn’t want a Stephen Stanley sounds just like LOTL experience), but any fears were quickly dispatched less than 30 seconds into the opening track, “Talkin’ Bout It.” Sure, the opening riffs share some similarity! The pace of the vocals, yes, possibly. But allow this one a little more time to develop and there is no doubt that while there is a natural familiarity, this is indeed a completely new experience. Stanley follows with the ‘Neil Young meets Simon and Garfunkel’ sounding “The Troubadour’s Song,” that thoroughly delights with traces of accordian and tin whistle to accompany the folksy lyrics and tempo. No, this is definitely not LOTL; Stephen has raised his game to carved his own path here, with a phenomenal album that has quickly become a contender for one of my favorite albums of the year to date.
In forming this new band, Stanley has surrounded himself with a talented pool of musicians, including Chris Bennett (guitar), Chris Rellinger (bass) and Gregor Beresford (percussion). Recorded on Wolfe Island at the old Post Office studio with producer Hugh Christopher Brown, “the spotlight easily shines on Stephen’s formidable guitar playing and his honest, emotionally connected vocals and songs.” And as a proud Torontonian, Stanley naturally incorporates many tales and inspirational connections to his home city across the album, from waiting for a streetcar on ‘Gerard’ (“Jimmy & The Moon”) to tales of his grandfather’s life in Yorkville (“Under The Mynah Bird”). Powerful lyrics, ‘jangly’ guitar melodies, and an indescribable feel-good factor that will keep you returning to this one time and time again.