Montreal songwriter Devon Welsh, in collaboration with producer Matthew Otto, comprises Majical Cloudz. Welsh had a big year in 2012, with a feature on “Nightmusic” off of Grimes’ much-feted Visions, as well as the release of the powerful Turns Turns Turns EP. The EP unveils a new and exciting aesthetic for the project – the arrangements are sparser, with Welsh’s assured baritone in the foreground delivering direct, confessional lyrics. Fittingly, the Cloudz live experience has become equal parts confession and theatre/performance art, as Welsh has described to The Line of Best Fit: “I think what we do is more bound up in the theatrical. I think it might be closer to someone performing a monologue on stage.”
Welsh has said in several interviews that the song form allows him a medium through which he can speak directly to specific people in his life. On the EP, this is most evident on “What Was That,” a beautiful paean to his friendship with Montreal artist Neil Corcoran. In a succinct three minutes of pop bliss, Welsh details nights out with Corcoran, deftly rendering an artistic bromance in straightforward prose: “And when we go out on Fridays / We come back on Saturdays / Me and him painting until the sun rose.”
Majical Cloudz’s upcoming full-length – rumored to be titled Impersonator – out on progressive Montreal label Arbutus Records, hopefully will feature more of this thrillingly direct writing. /JB
Autre Ne Veut
My favourite moment in Arthur Ashin’s November interview with Pitchfork for the website’s “Rising” feature is when the indie R&B singer discusses the making of the video for his blog hit “Counting.” He recounts that the video’s editor asked him whether he wanted it to be as “explicitly sexual” as the song, to which Ashin reveals that “Counting” is actually about avoiding calling his grandmother out of fear that, when he does, it will be the last time that he speaks to her. Immediately the song’s powerful chorus – “I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay alive” – takes on a different resonance for us as listeners.
Autre Ne Veut released his bizzare self-titled debut in 2010, a polarizing LP that some chose to dub “Failure Pop” for its slanted, queasy take on ’80s pop/R&B. This year, for his second album, Anxiety, Ashin has upped the fidelity, teaming with synth fetishists Joel Ford (Airbird) and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) for a collection of songs that he says were partly inspired by undergoing rigorous psychoanalysis. Check out his most recent single, “Play By Play,” my frontrunner for song of the year, which rides a world-conquering, karaoke-inspired chorus for nearly half its duration. This promises to be a trip. /JB
Toronto quartet Modern Superstitions just released their long-awaited debut this past October, but goddamn was it worth the wait. It’s poppy indie-rock with hooks to boot, but it’s got a hell of an attitude too; vocalist Nyssa Rosaleen can sweetly sing pop melodies, but she isn’t afraid to let it rip when the guitar gets grittier or drums lean on the crash instead of the ride.
With the reception the album has received thus far, 2013 will likely be a pretty good year for Modern Superstitions. If you’ve got a chance to see this band, take it. /PB
Yamantaka//Sonic Titan may be one of Canada’s weirdest bands, but they’re also one of Canada’s coolest. The band’s self-descibed “noh-wave” musical style is seductive but equally as heavy, with almost operatic vocals and sludgy guitars. It’s dualism made musically tangible: based out of both Toronto and Montreal, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan are equally oriental and western, both heavy and floating, and simultaneously psychotically twisted and lovely.
The band is scheduled to have a release in 2013, and if it’s anywhere close to the calibre that we saw on the band’s Polaris-nominated 2012 release, YT//ST, then 2013 is bound to be one hell of a year for Yamantaka//Sonic Titan. /PB
Photo courtesy of mechanicalforestsound.blogspot