Crooked spin can’t come to rest — A 25 year reflection on Elliott Smith’s most acclaimed album Either/Or

A look back at the impact he has on modern music, almost 20 years after Smith’s death

A hauntingly beautiful follow up to Elliott Smith’s first solo Roman Candle (1994) and subsequent self-titled album (1995), 1997’s Either/Or represented Smith’s true debut as a solo artist with his band, Heitmiser, having broken up the year prior. While the album kept the same raw emotionality of his earlier solo-works, like the aforementioned Roman Candle, it expanded upon his innate pop sensibilities, making for a masterful work of art which somehow managed to achieve cult-classic status while also propelling songs like “Say Yes,” “Between the Bars” and “Angeles” to mainstream recognition. 

Smith was often dubbed by the public as “Mr. Misery,” a play on one of his most acclaimed songs “Miss Misery” and the overall melancholic properties of his music. While a large part of Smith’s discography can accurately be described as gloomy, the artist was so much bigger than the moniker implies. Smith was a prolific musician, poet, and lyricist. A songwriter who was able to cover difficult topics such as depression, addiction, religion, death, love and loss with haunting vulnerability and beautiful simplicity. Even the raw and simplistic properties of a good deal of his discography can be misleading, as much of Smith’s instrumentalism is complicated at best. Tracks like “Angeles” incorporate finger-picking techniques which are extremely difficult to master, even before adding the vocal line. And yet, to see Smith perform the song with such ease would lead most to forget the technical complexity of his craft. 

Smith’s Either/Or integrates his well-documented love of The Beatles with Beatles-esque tracks (such as the romantic albeit sad “Say Yes”) while still managing to remain distinctly his own. The first track of the album, “Speed Trials,” is one of the most distinct from the collection in that regard. His whisper-like vocals accompanied by suspenseful instrumentalism give the song a haunting quality, which has been emulated by the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Sufjan Stevens, Jessica Pratt and more. The album’s impact is immeasurable, and many of the present leading artists within his genres (singer/songwriter, alternative/folk rock, etc.), including the aforementioned Bridgers, continue to name him as primary influence. 

Beyond that, his music continues to provide comfort to listeners worldwide, with almost 2 million monthly listeners a month on Spotify alone. Three of the songs off of Either/Or, “Between the Bars,” “Angeles,” and  “Say Yes” are also consistently among the top five of his most listened to tracks. As a Smith fan myself, listening to “Angeles” for the first time left a permanent mark on me, and I have been coming back to his music consistently ever since. Although Smith’s musical genius can’t be described in a few sentences, his signature chord progressions and vocal/instrumental layering alongside the poignant vulnerability of his lyricism combine to form a body of work that won’t soon be forgotten. 

There have not been many artists as sincere as Smith and that sincerity is what continues to captivate listeners, such as myself, almost 20 years since his passing. Give Either/Or a listen, it’ll be worth your while. 


Underrated albums of 2020, Vol. 1: Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline

The Saskatchewan-born artist narrates a tale of a lonely man spending a night out with his friends, and his regrets.

Canadian singer-songwriter Andy Shauf has a seemingly innate ability to capture and express human emotion through the stories he tells. On his latest release, The Neon Skyline, Shauf plays the narrator in a first-person story with a full cast of characters that charmingly and intimately explores the full spectrum of human emotion.

Shauf tells the story of a young man who calls up his friend Charlie one night and they head to their favourite local bar, the titular Neon Skyline. While they’re enjoying their drinks together, Charlie breaks the news to our narrator that his ex-girlfriend Judy is back in town.

This news begins to consume our narrator’s thoughts, as he becomes ruefully nostalgic about their relationship, recalling everything from the pleasant times to the miserably bitter. From “Where Are You Judy” to “Things I Do” we hear the narrator’s poetic reflections on their time together, from more pleasant memories to those that led to their relationship’s eventual ending.

While reminiscing on the love that they once shared, he begins to hope that he’ll run into her while he is out so he can attempt to rekindle the flame they once had. As the night progresses, we see the narrator and his friends having deep conversations and drunkenly deciding to hit the town, when they run into Judy on “The Moon.”

This track and “Try Again” feel almost like a single song with two parts, as they both focus on the time the pair spend together after running into one another. During this time, our narrator becomes enamoured with her once again, though this doesn’t last long, as Judy reminds him, both directly and indirectly, that they can’t restore what they once had. These two tracks are clear highlights on the album, with beautiful writing that is simple and concise yet completely captivating as we see our hopeful narrator fumble his way through their time together.

The last two tracks see their night reach its inevitable end, and with that end comes clarity for our narrator. As he looks at the mostly pleasant night that he and Judy have shared, he realizes he’s gained the closure necessary to move on. Realizing that he doesn’t have to continue repeating his habits and actions, he may not be able to undo what’s been done, but he can grow from it.

This album is absolutely fantastic — it plays like a short film, with nuanced characters and real, tangible explorations into human emotion. Having written, performed, arranged and produced every song on the album, Shauf not only shaped a great story but gave it a living world. The warm, folk-tinged indie sound of this project, gives each scene character and context, creating a perfect marriage between the lyrics and the music. The Neon Skyline is as cinematic as it is poetic, and it excels greatly at being both, making it one of the best releases of this year.

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

Riding the success of her recent releases, Angel Olsen takes a new orchestral direction on All Mirrors

Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors is a grand orchestral pop expedition into passion and loss. Just two years since the release of her last album, Phases, and three years since the major critical success of My Woman, Olsen has pivoted from her trusted folk-rock roots to a more bombastic, ambitious route on this newest project.

Olsen’s lyrics are often questioning and timid yet her vocal delivery carries all the power. This is especially apparent on the track “Impasse” where she belts “Take it out on me, I’m too caught up to see […] You know best, don’t you know” over gloomy swelling strings, creating a beautiful yet deeply unsettling atmosphere, a tone that appears often in the album.

Despite a sprinkling of upbeat moments on the album such as “Too Easy,” All Mirrors is incredibly dark. There is a palpable anger running through this project. Whether it’s anger at a past love like on “Lark,” or anger at herself as on the title track, Olsen isn’t letting anyone off the hook. All Mirrors is what a breakup album should be, Olsen’s songs of self-reflection and ire bring us even deeper into this powerful singer-songwriter’s mind.


Trial Track: “All Mirrors”

Star Bar: 

“It’s easy if you tell the truth

But knowing what it is, it’s not enough

And knowing that you love someone

Doesn’t mean you ever were in love” (“What It Is”)


Weyes Blood enchants Rialto Theatre

Los Angeles pop songstress brings “Something to Believe” tour to Pop Montreal

Sept. 27 was a big day for Montreal. In the afternoon, nearly 500,000 protestors poured into the streets to march to demand climate justice. As the crowds dissipated and night fell, the Pop Montreal festival continued in full swing, with singer-songwriter Weyes Blood headlining at Rialto Theatre.

The audience trickled into the historic Rialto as the first opener, Markus Floats, started to play at 8 p.m. The Montreal local performed a short set of electroacoustic mixes that spanned from calming and transcendent to otherworldly and unsettling.

After a quick tech change, Helena Deland took the stage. Her set started somberly, as was to be expected from her stripped-back pop style. Deland remained alone on the stage until she was joined by her bassist halfway through her set, when she played two of her biggest songs, “There Are a Thousand” and “Claudion.”

Despite the fact that these songs are some of her most upbeat tracks to date (with “Claudion” being rather dancible in that mellow sort of indie way), Deland forewent any chance to bring the energy up. This was a missed opportunity. “Claudion” especially felt like it was missing some of the energy that the recorded version contained. Later, she decided to close her set off with some of her darker tracks. Though Deland’s musical talent is hard to deny, the fact that her set peaked in the middle ended up making the performance feel unsatisfying.

Photo by Cecilia Piga

The moment Weyes Blood took the stage, it was obvious that this show was going to be something special. She had a small band accompanying her, but as she came out in a head-to-toe white powersuit, there was no denying she was the star.

She started out playing songs from her newest album, Titanic Rising, which has been receiving critical acclaim since its release this past spring. After a few songs, she took a moment to pose a question to the crowd. She explained that since this show was on the “Something to Believe” tour, she wanted to know what her audiences believed.

So, in a very matter of fact way she asked, “Was the moon landing filmed by Stanley Kubrick?” Most of the crowd just laughed, but a few hands shot up. She responded by saying, “In Vancouver, everyone raised their damn hand.” Then, she jumped into “Something to Believe”.

By far the most visceral performance of the entire show was the final pre-encore song “Movies.” The song started out with her gloomy voice laid over simple synth arpeggios. As she stood at the front of the stage, her body was flooded with lights that made it seem like you were looking down at her as she sank underwater, echoing the album cover of track. In that moment, the room felt spiritual. Weyes Blood, drenched in light, with her angelic voice, seemed like a sort of collective vision of the audience.

After leaving the stage to immense applause and cheering, Weyes Blood and her band returned to the stage to play three final songs, including a cover of the 1967 psychedelic song “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” She finished the show off with an old fan favourite, “In The Beginning.” 

Not many artists have both the incredibly strong voice and stage presence of Weyes Blood. Her ability to belt out her baroque pop tunes evoke icons like Kate Bush and Fiona Apple, and there is no doubt that Weyes Blood is on her way to icon status.


Feature photo by Cecilia Piga


Bud Rice debuts Piece of Heaven

Montreal singer-songwriter celebrates his second album with a release show at Petit Campus

On Saturday, Sept. 7, fans and local musicians alike gathered at Petit Campus to celebrate the launch of Bud Rice’s second studio album, Piece of Heaven.

Although not yet available on streaming services, the Montreal singer-songwriter hosted his release party to celebrate the completion of his project and perform the track list in its entirety. On stage, the frontman was accompanied by a full band, comprised of a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist.

Rice, born Henry Rice-Gossage, is no stranger to the stage, having begun to perform live at 15. Following several years of playing covers, many of which from the great Bob Dylan, Rice began writing his own songs. But like most lyrics written at the tender age of 18, his first songs were self-admittedly awful. Years later at 23, he released his first album, Belfast.

“I’m really proud of Belfast,” Rice told The Concordian. “But I think there are some things I would have done differently and I think going into the second record I had a better head on my shoulders about how I wanted to approach pre-prod and utilizing the time in studio more efficiently- way better than the first time around. On top of that, having constantly played in pubs for that four year span, I think that my chops alone have gotten better.”

Bud Rice strums and sings to his newly released songs at Petit Campus. Photo by Jacob Carey

Rice showcased his improved chops when he started his performance with the first song off the album, “Evergreen,” which he recently released a music video for. Midway through the set, Rice’s father, Dave Gossage, a professional musician, took the stage to perform “St Henri,” “Heron On A Stone” and “Just a Little Grey.” Gossage played the harmonica on the first two songs and ended with a flute on the last one, having displayed his incredible talent and musical versatility.

“Dad inspired me with the concept that there is a craft,” said Rice. “There is art, and there is a spectrum that exists. There’s far-left artsy-fartsy and the far-right business-savvy dude. If this is a career you want to maintain, you have to be somewhere in between. You can’t be too far left or too far right. I think that watching him, who is like a phenom, being able to carry out a career as one of the best musicians I’ve ever met, to have him inspire me to want to do that continuously, was super beneficial for me.”

Being a professional himself, Gossage always pushed Rice to keep a business mentality when it came to playing music.

“[He taught me] the drive, the determination to wake up every day and not feel hungover, or not do anything,” said Rice. “It was like, be hungover and put in the work you need to put in to make something real. It was always ‘It’s a job – do your job,’ not ‘You’re a fucking free spirit, just play music man’. No. This is your fucking job, so be good at your job.”

Rice proved that he is indeed good at his job. Although he had his accompanying band with him for the duration of his performance, the encore of his recent single “Oh My Sweet Rose” was done solo, making it clear that the entertainer needs no back up to put on a great show.


Photos by Jacob Carey


The voice from Toronto to Montreal

Singer-songwriter Avery Florence has brought her sound to the city

La Marche à côté, a bar on St-Denis St., was transformed into another universe on April 2 for one of Avery Florence’s shows. Even bypassers couldn’t help themselves from peeking into the window to see where the enchanting voice was coming from.

Since July 2018, 28-year-old singer-songwriter Avery Florence has called Montreal home. As a teenager, she loved the city and found inspiration every time she visited from Toronto. She has finally settled on the island for good after three attempts. It seems third time’s the charm.

“People are more open to connecting with others and it’s easier to build a community here,” Florence said. As a native Torontonian, she feels everyone is more laid back in Montreal. “Everybody is sort of an artist here because they have more time. Without time, being an artist just isn’t possible.”

Florence found her passion for music much later in life; she had no musical training as a child and wasn’t from a musical family, yet she felt a connection to music. She started playing guitar in university and after just a few weeks of lessons, she was already writing songs. “I’m so thankful that I found my passion. It changed my life completely,” Florence said.

Florence has an undeniable gift for music. Her voice resembles that of an angel gone wild, powerful and raw, yet pure and honest. She comes across as a genuine person and this translates into her music. Her shows are very intimate and she isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, allowing the audience to delve into her little world. When she performs songs like “Black Waves” and “Woke Up This Morning,” it’s almost impossible not to get in your feelings.

Whether it’s a moment of sadness and despair, or a moment of wonder and inspiration, Florence said most of her songs are rooted in personal experiences and emotions. In more emotional situations, she’ll pick up an instrument and start playing a few notes or start humming a melody. “I think all of my best songs have come out in one go. I’ll have an instrument with me and then I’ll just let the words come out,” Florence said.

Recently, Florence participated in the most intense musical experience of her life.The CTV Network created The Launch, a new music show where contestants audition for Canadian artists like Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, Marie-Mai, and more. Participants only have a few minutes to sell themselves and their music to the judges—needless to say, it’s a lot of pressure.

“It was really high highs and really low lows,” Florence said. She thought it was a scary thing to have something so personal out of her control. Contestants only see the final product on national television, at the same time as millions of other Canadians. “Literally right after I saw my part on TV, I felt a physical relief in my body that I had been holding onto for six months,” she admitted.

As the sun starts to reappear and spring settles in, keep your ear out for a voice that pulls your heart strings. Pay attention to the buskers on the street—Florence could be right under your nose.


Raphael reaches out

Montreal singer-songwriter navigates continents and mental health issues

“My parents don’t even know I sing,” admitted Edwin Raphael to the crowd at Petit Campus on Thursday night. He moved to Montreal from his parents’ home in Dubai five years ago, where the most he did was play guitar. He just released Will You Think Of Me Later, his first full-length album.

After moving to Montreal to study economics at John Molson School of Business, Raphael became disenchanted with his studies and immersed in his craft. “I was procrastinating, trying to write music. I was like ‘anything’s better than studying economics,’” he said. His biggest song, “Queen of Coasts,” from his 2015 EP Ocean Walk, has over 2 million plays on Spotify.

Dubai, said Raphael, has a more mainstream, corporate-feeling music scene that he found uninspiring. Montreal was a breath of fresh air. “There’s a live show every fuckin’ night; there’s music everywhere,” he said.

Raphael had the crowd swaying on every note. The show, which marked the launch of Will You Think Of Me Later, felt like a hometown gathering at a house party, attended by friends, fans and other local musicians. Raphael’s sound is innately intimate, his smooth voice gliding across gentle instrumentation from his band. He gave the band a break to do a few songs solo with his guitar, backlit by a spotlight. Raphael cites Ben Howard as someone he emulated when he was writing in his dorm room.

There were powerful moments in Raphael’s set, when he brought up singer and rapper junï, for their collaboration “Bloom.” The track is a downtempo, nostalgic elegy of a relationship with a lover, studded with a blaring organ sample that brings the hook to a boil: “You say flowers don’t bloom / Like they’re supposed to / When we’re hanging out / Shit’s just different now,” sings Raphael. Golden-voiced Montreal pop singer-songwriter Claire Ridgely joined him for “Tangerine Skies,” a top-down, summer romance ballad that was as sweet as it was sad.

When Raphael was writing Will You Think Of Me Later, his guitarist Jacob Liutkus would offer his opinion as a co-writer, as well as writing all of his own guitar parts. The two aimed to speak frankly of mental illness, from the outside. “For me, the story was how to deal with someone dealing with addiction,” said Raphael. Liutkus added that the project is meant to reach out. “This album was about [how] you’re never alone in terms of what you’re feeling, if you ever think ‘I’m the only one feeling this way,’” he said.

On “Sober,” Raphael is losing his lover to addiction. “You’re crying out for these words I know / With you moving out cause you’re losing hope / Won’t you come around / Just be sober now, just be sober,” he sings. Raphael acknowledges the limit of this perspective as a second-person narrative. “Me looking at it from the outside, like I can’t tell you what to feel, because I don’t know what addiction feels like, and there’s only so much I can do,” he said. “That was me understanding that I don’t understand. People try to think they understand addiction because they’re addicted to something, but there’s so many levels to that.” Will You Think Of Me Later is Raphael doing what he can to help others understand these struggles—it is an invitation to join in learning, without forgetting to be a remarkably smooth listen.

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