Categories
Concert Reviews Music

Mafuba performs alongside Takuya Kuroda

Concordia-adjacent band, Mafuba, opened for renowned trumpeter Takuya Kuroda’s group in a show on April 3, 2024.

A line of people stretched out of La Sala Rossa onto St. Laurent Boulevard waiting to witness a sold-out show. Thankfully, I knew the doorman.

As I entered the packed room, Montreal-based band Mafuba, appearing as a quintet —of which all but one are students in the Concordia Jazz Studies program— was already on stage. Up next was the internationally renowned jazz trumpeter and composer Takuya Kuroda’s band.

Nerves, excitement and anticipation hung in the air as audience members swayed, cheered, and danced. On stage, Mafuba thrived in this energy. The thick sound of Sibtaen Humayun’s tenor saxophone blended with the melodic lyricism of Duncan Hunter Neale’s trumpet. Sometimes punchy, sometimes atmospheric, Prabir Sekhri laid harmony and melody across the keyboard. Tristan Sisti-Aubé on upright bass, and Seyjii Schultz on drums formed an exciting rhythm section.

Mafuba’s music treads the line between high energy and groovy, meditative and trance-like. Bandleader Sibtaen describes the group as “jazz-adjacent.” Indeed, listeners will notice many elements of jazz aesthetic and methodology in Mafuba’s sound. The songs often consist of predetermined melodies lead by the saxophone and trumpet, followed by improvised solo sections. A notable highlight was Seyjii’s drum solo over coordinated tutti punches. Cheers erupted as the drummer accented these hits and filled the spaces with ever-changing rhythmic ideas.

Schultz is also featured in another capacity during the one cover song which the band played during their set. The group’s version of “Haiku by Australian musician Nai Palm begins with Seyjii leaving the drums to grab a guitar at the back of the stage. Subtly accompanied by keys and bass, her singing and guitar-playing created the most intimate point in the night. After having looped the main hook of the tune, the dynamic arc dipped as Seyjii returned behind the kit, before swelling again as drums, sax and trumpet entered, reprising the melody of the song.

Besides this cover, the songs Mafuba performed were all originals. According to Sibtaen, band members often bring melodic ideas, or even fully fleshed out songs, to rehearsal but “the finished product of whatever people hear is always a collaborative effort.” This was certainly reflected by the group’s performance: each member shined both individually and as part of the collective.

After the first set, many audience members, including myself, stepped outside before the next act. I spoke with friends about the success of the first set and the anticipation for the upcoming one by Kuroda. Signed to the iconic Blue Note record label, Kuroda’s reputation and reach is international. For him to be sharing a bill with a band so closely linked to Concordia was highly exciting. Soon everyone went back inside and the band began their set.

The instrumentation of Takuya’s group was identical to Mafuba’s, but with electric instead of acoustic bass. Even though the musicians had commuted from New York City that morning, there was zero sign of fatigue in their playing. From the first to the last notes, an air of mastery presided over La Sala Rossa. 

The group’s sound fused jazz with elements of hip-hop, rock, anime and video game music. Soloists often opted for intervallic-based musical ideas or repeated melodic cells, varying in rhythm and transposition, over a strictly linear style of playing (although all elements were present). Despite the relative “busy-ness” of each player’s parts, the groove was airtight. The result was creative, ecstatic soloing over a rhythmic foundation which was at once complex and danceable. Members of Mafuba were now interspersed throughout the crowd, cheering, listening, and soaking in the feeling of having shared a bill with artists whom they look up to.

Sitting down to interview Sibtaen a few days after the show, I learnt how proud the band felt about the experience. At the same time, Mafuba is keeping an eye on the future. Wanting to treat this event as a stepping stone, the band remains ambitious about the music yet to come.

Categories
Concert Reviews Music

Dose Coast’s electrifying performance at Turbo Haüs

An up-and-coming rap artist from Concordia University performed at Turbo Haüs last Saturday, April 6.

In the pulsating heart of Montreal’s underground music scene, nestled within the dimly lit confines of an intimate venue, an electrifying performance unfolded, showcasing the unparalleled talent of up-and-coming rap artist and Concordia student, Dose Coast. 

The name Dose Coast reflects the artist’s nomadic upbringing, symbolizing his connection to the coastal regions of Canada and the friendships he formed across the country. It embodies a sense of bringing “chill coastal vibes” wherever he goes, regardless of his geographical location. 

When Dose Coast stepped onto the stage at Turbo Haüs, the room exploded with energy. His confident vibe drew everyone in, and his infectious energy electrified the atmosphere. The audience was on their feet, grooving along to each and every song that the artist delivered. From the front row to the back, the crowd was fully engaged, feeding off the artist’s enthusiasm and sending it right back to him. 

From the moment he started rapping, it was clear that the artist had something unique to offer. His flow was smooth, his rhymes were tight, and his delivery was on point. 

Describing his style as lyrically-driven alternative rap, Dose Coast acknowledged his influences from boom bap and pop music, citing artists such as Mac Miller and J. Cole as inspirations of songwriting versatility. Coast draws from a diverse range of artists such as Joey Bada$$, Chris Webby, Hopsin, and Kid Cudi to shape his unique sound. 

He further links his process of songwriting and producing music to solving a puzzle, where lyrics are constantly being written and fitted into songs like pieces into a puzzle. Recently delving into his music production, he finds deeper connections to his creative energy, which is often sparked by sounds or words that inspire him. 

The Canadian rapper performed many of his well-awaited songs such as “Fade Away” and “Go Pro,” as well as several unreleased tracks. One of the unreleased songs he performed, “Keep Your Feet Moving,” will be released next month—a track that everyone should keep an eye out for. 

Musically, Coast’s performance at Turbo Haüs was top-notch. Whether he was spitting rapid-fire rhymes or delivering a soulful hook, his flow was impeccable, demonstrating a mastery of his craft that defied his up-and-coming status. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the performance was the artist’s authenticity. 

In an industry often criticized for its lack of substance,  Coast stood out as a voice of truth, unafraid to tackle real-world issues in his lyrics. In songs such as “Fade Away,” the artist did not shy away from tough topics such as personal struggles. It was raw, it was real, and it resonated with everyone in the room. 

Coast performed alongside three other artists, namely The Court Jester, Sir Louie, and MiQ The Burb Boy. Each of these artists brought their own sound to the show, making it a vibrant mosaic of sonic innovation and raw authenticity. It was refreshing to see the camaraderie between these artists and witness how they seamlessly blended their unique styles together, creating an electrifying atmosphere that resonated with the audience long after the final note faded away. 

As the night drew to a close, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause—a testament to the impact of the performance. It was clear that we had witnessed something special, a glimpse into the future of rap music. 

Ultimately, in a genre dominated by larger-than-life personalities and extravagant productions, Coast stood out as a result of his authenticity and talent. With his unique blend of raw lyricism, infectious energy, and unwavering sincerity, he proved himself to be a true force to be reckoned with in the world of hip-hop. 

Looking ahead, Coast is excited about his project “Elevated,” aimed at providing opportunities for upcoming artists through live events and collaborations. He plans to release six singles in 2024, as well as host several shows mainly focusing on, but not limited to, hip hop and R&B. 

If Saturday night’s concert was any indication, the world better get ready, because Dose Coast is just getting started. 

Connect with Dose Coast on Instagram: @dosecoastmusic.

Categories
Interview Music

Masters of Music: The Silver Skies

Discover Montreal’s rising stars and their journey through music.

In the heart of Montreal’s vibrant music scene, a phenomenon is brewing—an infectious blend of friendship, passion, and creativity known as The Silver Skies band. This dynamic sextet, comprising Christopher Chenevert, Charles Rabbat, Phillip Rabbat, Simon Lafortune, Jonathan Shapiro, and Aidan Shapiro, is redefining the city’s musical landscape with their unique fusion of indie, funk, rock, and pop, captivating audiences and critics alike with their electrifying performances.

Their journey began when Chenevert moved to Outremount and met the musically gifted Rabbat brothers. With Chenevert and Rabbat playing the guitar and Chenevert on the drums, they started playing together. Soon Lafortune, Chenevert’s childhood best friend, joined. Bonding over their shared passion for music, they began jamming together in a basement, laying the groundwork for their musical journey.

“The neighbors hated us,” said Chenevert humorously, as Ninja, the Rabbat brother’s cat, raced around their house, temporarily distracting the group during the interview. “But those jam sessions were where it all started.”

The four had no singing skills and sought out vocalists via Facebook advertisements. Their lineup solidified on April 16, 2021, when the twin Shapiro brothers, joined the band. “I think like that’s our anniversary,” said Chenevert nostalgically, glancing over at the rest of his band with a smile on his face.

Finding the perfect moniker proved to be no small feat for the band—in fact, it took over eight months before the group landed on their iconic name. “We gave our producer a list of like 10 names, and he chose two that he liked. One of them was The Silver Skies, and that was my idea,” Rabbat said. “The reason why I came up with it was because, well, today is actually a perfect example. Look at the sky, it’s gray. Gray skies are a depressing way of seeing it. Instead of saying ‘Gray Skies,’ it’s ‘Silver Skies.”

The band’s journey wasn’t without hurdles that went beyond the choice of a name. One of their major challenges revolved around fostering active listening and clear communication. Chenevert openly acknowledged the diverse nature of their personalities, particularly within the dynamic of a band where individuals with varying traits come together. He admitted to the ongoing struggle of navigating through personality conflicts and interpersonal challenges inherent in collaborative efforts. “The greatest thing about us is that over time, we’ve learned to communicate. So even though we disagree, and sometimes we have to shout over the drums, we learn each other’s talking styles,” said Shapiro. 

Since their humble beginnings, The Silver Skies members have taken the Montreal music scene by storm, one gig at a time with their electrifying live performances. Their favorite show to date is a memorable night at Blue Dog on June 9, 2023, where the band’s energy and connection with the crowd reached fever pitch. Encouraged by the crowd to keep going even after being told that their set was done, the band kept playing. “Blue Dog was dope. It was a small venue, but the vibe was there. Even though they cut us off, we had a rock and roll attitude,” said Rabbat. 

The Silver Skies recently unveiled their latest single, “Drive Me Crazy,” a song that holds a unique place in their repertoire as both their newest and oldest creation. Written by the youngest duo of the group, the Shapiros wrote the song at 16-years-old. It stayed untouched for years until they met the other band members. It was the first song they performed together as a group and, now, their first released single. It is currently out on every streaming platform. Fans can look forward to the upcoming release of Silver Skies’ new single, “Emotional” set to hit the airwaves very soon.

As they look ahead to the future, The Silver Skies members have their sights set on even greater heights. One of their aspirations is collaborating with another local Montreal band, Mr. Patterson, who once opened for them at L’Escogriffe Bar back in February. 

When asked how fans could help support them, Chenevert said, “If you like our music, please share it with other people. The best thing you could do to help us is share it with your friends and family. Don’t keep it to yourself.”

With its infectious enthusiasm and unwavering dedication, The Silver Skies continues to reach for the stars. As members navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, one thing remains clear—with The Silver Skies, the sky’s the limit.

Categories
Music

Highlights from spring music drops

The Music Editors of The Concordian share their most-listened releases from March & April.

Tabéa’s Picks:

Mount Kimbie – The Sunset Violent

Composed of Kai Campos, Dominic Maker, Andrea Balency-Beérn and Marc Pell, the glorious British band Mount Kimbie released their sixth album on April 5. This new project runs for 37 minutes and is a magnetic, cohesive, immersive and atmospheric body of work. The alternative, electronic and groovy flare of Mount Kimbie’s sound flows seamlessly over each song and its production quality across all nine tracks is stellar. The contrast of hearing different members singing the same song, for instance on “Fishbrain” with Andrea’s singing and Kai’s vocals, adds a lovely depth to the album. Moreover, being able to hear King Krule’s involvement in two separate songs is a delightful surprise for all listeners.

Trial Track: “Empty and Silent” (feat. King Krule)

Vegyn – The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions

Joe Thornalley, better known as Vegyn in the music industry and to electronic music lovers, dropped his sixth album on April 5. The London-based producer put together a beautifully 45-minute curated endeavour through 13 tracks. I love how some songs are solely instrumental and let Vegyn’s beat-making shine while others feature vocals from the likes of Léa Sen and John Glacier that only push the energy and meanings of the songs further. Some tracks play with the willful duality of lower and higher tempos and heavily charged production, while others are more minimalistic with ambient sounds. 

Trial Track: “Trust” (feat. Matt Maltese)

Mayfly – Killed My Innocence

Montreal-based duo Mayfly, composed of singer-songwriters Charlie and Emma, shared their latest project with the world on March 29. Labelled under Indie Pop, this EP includes five tracks and delivers moody, airy and pungent production style. The growth and decrease of the cadence and elements in the track “See Through” captivated my attention and encouraged total immersion from the very beginning, all the way till the end. The calculated but experimental and cohesive project of these fellow Montrealers is definitely to be added to your music library!

Trial Track: “See Through”

Stefano’s Picks:

Tyla – TYLA

Following the breakout success of “Water,” Tyla returns with her self-titled debut album, a full offering of tuneful Afrobeats tracks. The album is filled with infectious instrumentals and alluring vocals from the South African starlet, many of which are Amapiano tracks with the same foundation as “Water.” The Skillibeng and Gunna-assisted “Jump” is exceptionally catchy, with its heavy Amapiano bass stabs combined with traditional Afrobeats percussion. From the high notes on the bridge to the understated chorus, the song succeeds as a bouncy, tropical, summery cut. Tyla is poised for success, and her debut album fully displays her capability to make catchy hits characterized by angelic, harmonious singing.

Trial Track: “Jump” (feat. Gunna & Skillibeng)

MIKE & Tony Seltzer – Pinball

Pinball sees underground rapper MIKE taking a stylistic leap away from his usual, abstract hip-hop style, instead opting for a mainstream sound by teaming up with producer Tony Seltzer. The project is an upbeat, fun listen that combines trap, drill, West Coast and Detroit hip-hop production with melodies that are lighthearted and ethereal. “On God” is a moodier cut that boasts a feature from Earl Sweatshirt who provides an addictive hook with his deadpan, hypnotic delivery. Tony Shhnow and MIKE perfectly match his energy, and the trio offer an addictive, atmospheric cut that is short, sweet and guaranteed to get repeat listens.

Trial Track: “On God” (feat. Earl Sweatshirt & Tony Shhnow)

Bryson Tiller – Bryson Tiller

Bryson Tiller’s self-titled effort is his fourth studio album, his first since A N N I V E R S A R Y in 2020. The project is brighter and more rhythmic than some of his signature, moodier projects, dabbling in a series of genres. The album combines R&B balladry with melodic takes on drill rap and Jersey club, plus ventures into Afrobeats. Per usual, his singing performances are intact and balanced with his brand of melodic rapping. “No Thank You” is a personal favourite, with a light, dreamy, bouncy hip-hop instrumental that Tiller sings and glides over effortlessly.

Trial Track: “No Thank You”

Categories
Culture News

Cabane à sucre comes to Concordia

Annual sugar shack celebration brings a slice of culture (and pudding chômeur!) to staff and students.

On Wednesday, April 10, Concordia Hospitality hosted a sugar shack-inspired lunch in the EV junction, bringing the yearly spring celebration back to campus after COVID restrictions had put it on pause. Profits from tickets sold went towards the Emergency Meal Plan Program, a service run by Concordia Hospitality that provides students in need with meal cards to students. 

Tables were arranged around the ground floor of the atrium and attendees enjoyed a selection of traditional Quebec cuisine while Québécois folk music was played on loudspeakers. Meat- and plant-based options were made available to attendees, including tourtière—a meat pie—, ham, pea soup, along with maple-centric pudding chômeur, maple pie and pancakes with maple syrup.

Shortly after the event began, a maple taffy station was set up where attendees were able to roll their own maple taffy with direction from a staff member.

“We like doing the sugar shack because it is very Québécois, and we have lots of students coming who’ve never had taffy before, who don’t know the different food we’re eating,” said Sarah Caille, director of Concordia Hospitality. Explaining the significance of the event, she elaborated.

“First of all, it was an opportunity to bring the community back together [after pandemic restrictions were lifted]. And then at the same time it worked to raise some money towards the Emergency Meal Plan Program,” she said.

The sugar shack celebrations are an integral part of Quebec and eastern Canadian culture, and the event had many students excited about the nostalgic nature of maple taffy, also known as tire d’érable.

“This year I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go to a cabane à sucre, so when I saw this here I was so happy to have this,” said second-year Computer Engineering student Yasmine Abdallah, referring to the syrupy candy on a stick in her hands. Born in Morocco but raised in Montreal, she considers it an important part of Canadian culture. 

“I feel like you just think of maple syrup when you think of Canada,” she elaborated.

This was echoed by final-year Classics student Luca Baldassare. “I was just passing by, got out of the metro and saw some tire [à l’érable] and was like: ‘What am I doing right now, not getting tire?’ It’s honestly that simple,” he said.

It hadn’t happened since COVID and we really wanted to bring the community together again. First of all, it was an opportunity to bring the community back together. And then at the same time to raise some money towards the Emergency Meal Plan Program which is a program our department organizes where we collect funds to be able to give meal cards to students.

Tickets to the event themselves were also distributed to students through the Concordia Student Union (CSU), Campus Health and Wellness, Recreation and Athletics, and the Concordia University Student Parents Centre. 

Caille spoke to the inclusiveness of the event. “It really is a whole community. It’s for students, for staff, for faculty, we even have a couple retirees coming,” she said.

Categories
Interview Music

Montreal band arc on their self-titled album 

The band is thrilled upon the release of their debut album on April 6.

arc is a local band composed of Stephen Venkatarangam, Adrian Aitken and Annabelle Brault who recently released their debut album to the public. Venkatarangam and Brault are also Ph.D. Candidates in Concordia’s INDI program. 

When they first started out, the band didn’t set out with any specific instrumentation or even a set compositional process. Later on, Annabelle knew she would play a synth, Stephen would play the guitar and Adrian, digital drums. 

The band members do not see themselves fitting in any specific genre of music. As their Bandcamp profile states, “arc blends the unpredictability of live modular synthesis with the warmth of traditional instruments, crafting spontaneous, one-time-only soundscapes.” The band is “a sonic dream collective mashing modular synth, ambient, IDM, psych rock, contemporary classical, raga and post-rock for your listening/visual experiences.” 

With songs running from five to nine-minutes-long, the five-track project was created by recording live improvisations. Such recordings captured in the process reflected musical moments like a slow-building theme that evolves into something new. “We felt the songs on the album captured this ‘arc,’” expressed Venkatarangam—hence the album name. 

A core element of the creative process was the incorporation of modular synths, which are instruments where you pick and choose different components to create your own instrument. This granted the band more freedom regarding desired tones and unique sequences or samplers. On top of the modular synth, arc blends more traditional instruments like flutes, guitars, analog synthesizers and drums. The band does not use pre-recorded tracks or even laptops for that matter (other than to capture the recording). As for the songwriting process, different members will take turns starting and then co-creating will happen spontaneously. 

The shortlisted group of their improvisations represented a snapshot of ever-evolving soundtracks: “A different person begins with a musical theme on whatever instrument they feel works, and the other two of us add to this theme and we see where it goes from there,” Venkatarangam explained. 

The band believes that nature counts as a source of energy and inspiration for them, which is reflected in their album cover. The visual is a photo of a stream behind Stephen and Annabelle’s place in Boucherville. “It was run into a video synth, another aspect of our collective and then made into the cover. I guess it symbolizes a snapshot of our collective stream of creation, which is what our recordings are,” Venkatarangam said. 

The making of the album was filled with memorable moments for the band, like the time when Annabelle was taking birdsong samples in India while creating wind sounds on her modular synth. “This created a unique atmosphere which allowed us to all add our own sonic textures and beats to it—it felt special creating it,”  said Venkatarangam.

But the birth of the album came with its challenges. The band would sometimes find themselves struggling with creating and recording music on the spot.  It also took a little while for them to find a consistent sound, learn how to record their tracks and learn how to play and incorporate their various instrumentations—particularly the modular synths.

Overall, arc’s sound on their debut album makes them a bit of a hybrid between a live band and electronic, ambient or IDM music. They incorporate a live electronic drummer, modular synths with unique sounds to create music that is moving forward, embracing technology, without being overly polished and produced. “We feel the music is still engaging and meaningful to us and try not to be overly self-indulgent or pretentious (i.e. shocking the listener) but authentic despite our experimental nature,” added Venkatarangam. 

arc wishes to create soundscapes that allow the listeners to generate their own personal meanings. The members also noted that their songs reflect what is going on in their personal lives, and leave a glimmer of hope or a moment of respite, reflection and/or positivity as they navigate the human experience in these uncertain times. 

“We think this album reflects us finding ourselves as a band, getting on the same page together and continuing with our creative arc,” expresses Venkatarangam. Although a debut album is a significant milestone, the members believe that it also just marks the beginning of them. “We hope we join the list of artists that bring a human element to the many genres we fit into,” shared Venkatarangam. 

If you’re curious about arc, don’t forget to catch them playing shows this year, like at  Brain Freeze Montreal (a local electronic festival series) on Sept. 11. 

You can also check out their live video-synthesis projections filmed at their home studio and shared via their social media at @arcbandmtl or their YouTube channel @arcband8649.

Categories
Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Zeina — Eastend Confessions

The Montreal singer’s debut album is a harmonious blend of R&B and Arabic music influences paying homage to her heritage.

In the days following the release of her debut album Eastend Confessions, Zeina posted a photo of her father to her Instagram with the caption, “I could have millions of streams but this is the real flex for my dad.” In the photo, he is pictured wearing a t-shirt that reads “My daughter is on a Billboard.” 

Born to Lebanese and Egyptian parents and raised in Montreal, the artist’s Arabic heritage has come to play a central role in her music. She spoke to Apple Music in 2023 about the importance of reclaiming her cultural identity, which she had initially felt a bit hesitant to represent: “But as I grew up, I realized, ‘No, that’s what makes me different. This is truly me, and I have the power to be this right now and not be scared and really embody that.” Released on April 3, 2024, Eastend Confessions is a full-fledged ode to her cultural background through R&B music, the pinnacle of this homage in her career so far.

Zeina effortlessly switches between singing in English, French, and Arabic on numerous tracks, a nod to her trilingual upbringing in Montreal’s multicultural environment. Additionally, Arabic instrumentation is heavily present in the album’s production. “Hot” is complete with an Arabic drum breakdown on the backend, and “NASTY” is founded upon a typical Arabic melody. “Problematic” bridges both elements, with its oud melody (a traditional Arabic string instrument), mizmar horn bridge, and distinct drum and percussive sounds. These cultural elements are perfectly blended with contemporary R&B production that is smooth, groovy, and accessible. 

“Hooked” has a poppy, tropical bounce akin to Rihanna and DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts,” and is already making its waves on Montreal radio stations as a summer-ready hit. There are also slower moments on the record, such as the acoustic “Betrayal.” “Take Me Down” is a standout, sincere ballad set to soft guitars and smooth bass. 

The album’s lyrical content remains in line with her previous work, focusing on themes of romance and relationships. Songs like “Hooked” and “NASTY” are more upbeat and playful with some risqué moments, while other tracks capture the challenges and confusion that can come with a relationship. “Give Me Time” is an introspective song about taking distance from a partner to focus on oneself. “Temporary” is equally cautionary, as the singer gets candid about not wanting a relationship that requires full commitment. “Problematic” is a fun cut where she flirts with danger, an ode to taking pleasure in being bad.

Zeina’s voice shines all across the project, especially when utilized powerfully on tracks like “Hot,” where her melodic runs are beautifully high and soft. Her sped-up cadence and animated delivery on most tracks is reminiscent of pop-R&B heavyweights SZA and Rihanna, showcasing Zeina’s ability to demonstrate her vocal prowess while simultaneously delivering the addictive qualities of a hit. “Betrayal” is truly the standout vocal performance on the record, with Zeina soaring into a high vocal register that is perfectly highlighted by the track’s minimalist, acoustic foundation.

With its culturally researched production, multilingual singing, and personal lyrics, Eastend Confessions is a portrait of authenticity: Zeina is unapologetically proud of who she is—the Arab-centric, Western popstar she had aspired to become in her formative years.

Score: 8/10

Trial Track: Problematic

Categories
Concert Reviews Music

Montreal spills their excitement for Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS tour. 

Fans left an outstanding impression on the singer during her first ever shows in Montreal.

When Olivia Rodrigo released her debut single “drivers license” in 2021, it skyrocketed to number one on the charts and became a heartbreak anthem for an entire generation. Her debut album SOUR doubled down on that success, receiving a small-scale tour that same year. With her sophomore album GUTS out, she recently embarked on a worldwide arena tour, notably stopping in Montreal for the first time. She packed out the Bell Centre, playing two sold-out nights on March 26 and 27.

Fans of Rodrigo were treated to quite literally every song they could possibly love: every song, with the exception of two, in her solo discography was featured on her setlist. As a result, the night was a well-rounded and balanced mix of pop-punk anthems, heartfelt ballads and everything in between. Rodrigo did not miss a beat, and the crowd was right on par with her.

The show began with “bad idea right?” and “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” kicking things into high gear right from the jump. She then moved into some slower tempo songs like “Vampire” and SOUR cuts “drivers license” and “traitor.” These tracks put her fans’ dedication on full display, for every song was sung perfectly and each lyric was crystal-clear, even with twenty thousand voices singing in unison. The melodic runs on tracks like “favorite crime” proved that the crowd was capable of hitting all sorts of notes, with the starlet even giving them props for having the chops to keep up with her.

Her performance of “teenage dream” was a standout from the entire night. Rodrigo began with a monologue while playing the piano, in which she expressed her gratitude growing up and getting older, and being excited to see the girl she will become. A montage of home videos from her childhood played in the background, adding a degree of wholesomeness. The cherry on top was the end of the performance, where a clip of her childhood self speaking with her mother played. Rodrigo’s mom was asking her daughter about her upcoming first performance, to which the crowd responded eagerly with all sorts of cheers—a poignant, emotional moment perfectly executed by breaking the fourth wall.

Halfway through the show, Rodrigo embarked on a moon prop which would make its way around the arena. She waved to fans as they cheered raucously below her, performing her ballads “logical” and “enough for you” as she floated above them. 

Rodrigo maintained a solid stage presence throughout the entire night. Her stage featured a central platform which extended down the left and right side with two catwalks, by which she took advantage to visit each side of the stage periodically. She jumped around and rocked out to her more energetic songs, whereas she laid down and sat down to perform introspective, piano and guitar-driven tracks like “making the bed” and “happier.” 

She took time to hype up the crowd, acknowledge her fans, and even share anecdotes about the different songs, truly creating a connection with the crowd members. Her dancers were another key addition to the show: they were perfectly in sync and made their way across all parts of the stage, further utilizing the setup and adding to the overall stage presence.

Heading into the last leg, Rodrigo had fans belting out to more rock-leaning cuts like “all-american bitch” and the newly released “obsessed.” Once the song was over and she was offstage, the crowd gave a standing ovation in total obscurity—roaring for nearly a minute and a half straight. The pop star returned with “good 4 u” and closed out the show with “get him back!,” saluting fans in the crowd and those along the barricade as confetti poured down from above.

Categories
Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Waxahatchee — Tigers Blood

Katie Crutchfield’s piercingly introspective album was released on March 22.

Hailing from Alabama, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield takes her name from the sprawling creek that runs adjacent to her childhood home. Given this history, it’s hardly surprising that her latest project is staged against a backdrop of pastoral motifs, bolstered by intricate guitar licks and poignantly fraught lyrics. A homegrown twang snakes through Tigers Blood, reminiscent of her previous album, Saint Cloud, which sees Crutchfield at her most reflective.

The first four songs on Tigers Blood, with the exception of the final eponymous track, represent the album’s strongest stretch, beginning with “3 Sisters,” a mournful ballad written with the same devastating specificity as prime Taylor Swift: “You drive like you’re wanted in four states.” The track benefits from the expertise of Wisconsin producer Brad Cook, a frequent Indie collaborator who has previously worked with the likes of Bon Iver (that’s him, on piano and guitar, in 22, A Million) and Snail Mail. “If you’re not living, then you’re dying,” a lyric delivered on the back half of the track, seems to encompass the album’s central artistic and moral value proposition. 

“Evil Spawn” is a joyful exercise in self-flagellation, where deficiencies represent opportunities for play. You can hear Crutchfield’s grin as she playfully suggests, “There ain’t nothing to it babe, we can roll around in the disarray.” 

The album’s fourth track, “Right Back to It” engages in the same kind of blithesome world-building, and one only needs to watch the music video to experience the earthy grandeur of Crutchfield’s vision. MJ Lederman, who provides the tight guitar grooves and backup vocals, pilots a pontoon boat while Crutchfield sings; the facial expressions deployed as she delivers her lyrics are gorgeously defiant, suggesting a story more turbulent than the tranquil everglades-esq swampland which surrounds her might suggest. 

The album closes with “Tiger’s Blood,” whose title is an ode to the shaved ice flavour and its messy strawberry dribblings, a recurring motif that gestures towards a return to childlike innocence. It’s a track seeping with nostalgia, a powerful force which animates Crutchfield’s gentle croons: “We were young for so long, seersuckers of time.”  

There is nothing glossy or presumptuous about Waxahachie. Crutchfield’s charm lies in the ability to bring her listeners down to earth with her, and although you might emerge with dusty jeans and muddied fingernails, you’ll somehow be breathlessly happy about it. With Tigers Blood, one feels Crutchfield is content to sit on the sidelines and watch as other contemporary artists strive for relevance in a musical landscape characterized by the proliferation of robust metanarratives about culture. A breath of fresh air, Waxahatchee’s latest release is a triumph of self-recognition and frisky optimism. 

8.5/10

Trial track: Lone Star Lake

Categories
Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Beyoncé — COWBOY CARTER

Beyoncé’s triumphs on her eighth album, an all-encompassing ode to country and American music.

Beyoncé prefaced the release of her new album with a statement explaining that the album was born partly from the backlash she received from her appearance at the 2016 Country Music Awards: “I did not feel welcomed…and it was very clear that I wasn’t.” COWBOY CARTER, her eighth studio album, is all about Beyoncé staking her claim within the country music realm. The record is an exciting ride through classic American music styles, with researched production and homages to the great artists of the genre.

Although country music defined the lead singles of the album, COWBOY CARTER is rather an all-encompassing tribute to historically popular styles of American music. Beyoncé notably pays tribute to several iconic artists in American music history, primarily from the country genre she is borrowing from. Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Linda Martell all appear in spoken or sung bits that serve as skits between songs. “BLACKBIIRD” and “JOLENE” are covers of classic tracks by The Beatles and Dolly Parton, respectively.

The record has a predominantly country, singer-songwriter and acoustic direction that also dabbles in folk, rock, hip-hop and dance music. “AMERIICAN REQUIEM” has a gospel feel and traces of sitar, while “16 CARRIAGES” is filled with hits of rock guitars. “SPAGHETTI” is a hard-hitting hip-hop banger, as is “TYRANT.” Different types of acoustic and country styles are also explored: the album’s midsection consists of slower-paced, acoustic ballads that focus on emotion,introspection and highlighting the singing.

Beyoncé is vocally intact, delivering several stunning performances. She reaches beautiful highs on the introductory track and soars into Italian opera on the backend of “DAUGHTER,” delivering stunning results. She is joined by Miley Cyrus on “II MOST WANTED,” a duet where the voices are perfectly complementary as they harmonize over acoustic guitars. The intro track is one of many examples where Beyoncé utilizes her full vocal range, tapping into deeper vocals as well.

Beyoncé’s songwriting is one of the album’s strong suits. “16 CARRIAGES” is a story of sacrifice about Beyoncé following her family at a young age to embark upon a musical career. “PROTECTOR” is all about motherhood—providing for your children yet knowing they will be on their own one day. Her rendition of “JOLENE” even puts a fresh spin on the original, opting for a more assertive and defensive track—Jolene is warned to stay aback. 

Throughout the tracklist, there are all sorts of captivating lyrics about Beyoncé embracing Black culture, family, love, sexuality and overcoming adversity and infidelity (“JUST FOR FUN,” “DAUGHTER”).

“YA YA” is a standout, both vocally and instrumentally, combining uptempo guitar licks with horns, drums and roaring vocals. The track is grand and exciting and evokes Tina Turner. “BODYGUARD” is another key track, a laid-back, poppier cut backed by warm acoustic guitars and addictive “oohs.” 

The album’s final leg kicks into a series of dance cuts, calling back to Beyoncé’s previous album. “RIIVERDANCE” combines country instrumentation with a consistent kick bounce. It transitions directly into “II HANDS II HEAVEN,” a song that is equally pulsating but starry and mellow. “TYRANT” is an upbeat hip-hop banger backed by a killer violin melody, and “SWEET ★ HONEY ★ BUCKIIN’” is another bouncy bop reminiscent of RENAISSANCE track “THIQUE.”

There are several shorter interludes in between tracks that make for nice moments, though their brevity renders them less necessary. Contrarily, the “SMOKE HOUR” radio show-themed skits and vocal interludes add to the Western aesthetic of the album and aid its flow. 

All in all, COWBOY CARTER is Beyoncé’s latest passion project and a testament to the effort she puts into her work. From her performances to the production, the record speaks to her will to dive into a new style and research it down to every last detail.

8/10

Trial Track: YA YA

Categories
Music

Vault: The best new sustainable music platform? 

James Blake has launched Vault, a subscription service for unreleased music, to the public since March.

British singer, songwriter, producer, and DJ James Blake released a new platform named Vault inspired by social media discourse about how streaming platforms and social media are not sustainable ways for artists to make a living solely out of music. 

On the website, Vault explains that “artists can share their unreleased tracks directly from their vault to their fans and tap into a new recurring revenue stream.” The app saw the light on March 21, a few days after Blake communicated his opinions publicly on how social media can be an issue for music artists and their careers. “Music is my life’s purpose and I will not have mine destroyed by a bunch of labels and tech companies who don’t even pay us and exploit us relentlessly,” says Blake in an Instagram post in early March 

Blake shared on his Instagram story that the concept of a subscription-based platform like this one offers an artist some certainty, financially speaking. “I want artists to have less anxiety about what they put out, less fear that it leads to uncertainty,” he said. 

Indeed, this platform revolves around unloading music files from hard drives and displaying any idea that will probably never make it on Spotify, Apple Music, or other streaming platforms. “We’ll never be able to eliminate uncertainty from music, but platforms need to encourage artists to make their favourite, most integral music—not just the big 15-second TikTok moment,” Blake said.

Vault also contains a discussion forum space, allowing fans to discuss the music on the artist’s page and directly message Blake for instance. There is also a mobile app currently in the works, making the private access to the artists’ vault for their fans more accessible.

Blake said the infant stage of this platform is exciting as he shares it with people and how he can get artists to grow their following, heighten their connection with their fans, and make it fun to put out music they love, not just music that works as singles on TikTok. 

He highlighted that this platform is one of the only ones that will focus on getting artists actually paid directly. “The industry has always been an ecosystem of free versus paid.” 

A lot of the reason why music stays unreleased is because of demand-side platforms’ (DSP) limitations which is a type of software that allows solutions for advertisers. “DSP’s favour in certain structures/styles/genres to accept songs onto playlists, to the point where it stifles creativity,” Blake noted in another post. 

Moreover, as of March 28, the platform has announced its first new artist alongside Blake to be American singer Monica Martin. Blake stated in the comment section that “it’s going to be an amazingly diverse, musically exciting place pretty soon.” 

A monthly subscription fee is needed to unlock an artist’s page and all of its content. Blake’s page demands $5 USD per month and Monica Martin’s Vault content requires $2 USD per month. The subscription amount then differs via the artist’s popularity, making up-and-coming artists’ pages more affordable to encourage more people to discover them. Subscribers are also notified of any new drops by a text message to their phone number. Any collaborators who worked on the songs released also benefit from the revenue. 

“Artists are already being robbed worse and legally,” Blake wrote about potential piracy on his platform. He adds that copyright claims are still in effect and the usual copyright laws will protect all music found on Vault. 

Blake said that he’s working to grow his Vault following and show people it’s worth the $5 USD a month. The artist also revealed he’s felt more creatively free this past week than he has since he started in music. 

“Looking forward to more artists joining and seeing what I’m talking about, and for their fans to see what the real world effect of offering an easy-to-use alternative to the DSPs will be,” he shared. 

With new artists joining the platform, Vault will continue to flourish with brand new users every day and evermore cut the middleman between eager fans of music and passionate music artists.

Categories
Concert Reviews Music

Welcoming spring with Loving and Fog Lake

Band Loving and artist Fog Lake marked the start of spring in Montreal during their 2024 tour.

On March 23, timed with the advent of spring, Canadian band Loving made a stop in Montreal for a performance at Foufounes Électriques, supported by artist Fog Lake, during Loving’s 2024 Spring tour.

Aaron Powell, known under his artist name Fog Lake, is a Canadian singer-songwriter from Glovertown, Newfoundland. He opened the night with a wave of nostalgia. Opening his set with “Bandaid Heart” from his album Midnight Society, he then transitioned into “Dinosaur” from his earlier work, Captain.

Performing solo with only his voice and guitar, Fog Lake opted for the stripped down sound of down-strummed guitar chords played with his thumb. To draw in the crowd, the artist performed a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” eliciting the crowd to sing along. Aaron also took song requests from the crowd, and played certain suggestions from his own discography like “Catacomb” and “Push,” creating a unique concert experience for the fans.

Transitioning from the intimate solo opening of Fog Lake, main act Loving took the stage, making a long-awaited return to Montreal since their last performance at La Sala Rossa in April 2022. 

The band is a trio from Victoria, British Columbia, consisting of brothers Jesse and Lucas Henderson with David Parry. It has since evolved into its core duo, featuring Jesse as the main vocalist and songwriter, and David as a multi-instrumentalist and producer. 

Exuding their meditative and indie aura, Jesse and David performed with four additional musicians. The band’s stage arrangement deviated from the conventional placement with the lead vocalist at the centre stage, setting Jesse, the vocalist and main pianist, on the far right.

The band played several songs, seamlessly flowing from one to the next, before addressing the eager crowd for the first time. They continued with select tracks from their latest album Any Light, released on Feb. 9, including standouts such as “Medicine.” The rest of the set went by rather fast—the band played songs back-to-back, including “Sweet Fruit” and “If I Am Only My Thoughts,” without pausing to check-in on the crowd. 

Although Loving consists of talented and cohesive musicians, there was a noticeable lack of connection with the crowd. Their show lacked the uniqueness that the opener, Fog Lake, effortlessly provided at the start. The disconnect between the spectators and performers left the audience feeling somewhat detached, despite the band’s impressive musical delivery.  

Albeit the main act’s slightly disappointing performance, both Loving and Fog Lake graced the stage in Montreal with exceptional music, setting the tone for an exciting spring season of upcoming concerts.

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