Century Egg, River God

Century Egg, River God

When I was growing up, Canadian indie always seemed like an open and inclusive community to me, but it can be hard to notice who is being excluded when you feel included. In hindsight, it clearly lacked—and continues to lack—the kind of multicultural representation that this country is supposed to embody.

That said, there was a change within the scene that can be loosely tied to Tanya Tagaq’s Polaris Prize win in 2014 for her album Animism. The loud, proud display of Inuit culture Tagaq embodies, her incredible music, and her continuously rising profile has started a conversation, putting into motion an invigorated push for real cultural representation in Canadian music, kickstarted by artists. Whether that push has got us anywhere other than talking amongst ourselves is a whole other question. NOW Magazine’s 2016 cover story, entitled “Real talk about racism in the Toronto music scene” shines a light on the bleak realities of being a person of colour trying to break through playing music. Lido Pimienta—whose 2016 album La Capacidad was one of the best of the year—wrote about her experience trying to be part of the change within Toronto’s music scene. She spoke about how she is often tokenized as not only the one woman on the bill, but the only South American performer and the only act singing in Spanish. She told NOW, “I’ve been in Canada for 10 years, and when I think about Canada then and now, it’s the same. I’m still the one brown girl among all these white men.”

It is safe to say that the Canadian music industry is white male-centric from the top down. However, artists like Tagaq and Pimienta are making a difference and empowering others who don’t fit in or feel represented in the indie rock scene to go for it, even if the language you speak or sing in can’t be understood by the dunderheads there to enjoy the show.

Century Egg are a band from Halifax that live by the aforementioned artist’s example. Their latest EP, entitled River God, finds lead singer Shane Keyu Song singing in Mandarin and English. This detail, however big or small it may seem to you, makes Century Egg unique in Canada’s indie rock community. Of course, just like the above examples, it is not what makes the band great. River God is fifteen too-quick minutes of perfectly crafted, heartwarming pop songs that are ripe with an innocence and exuberance often missing from the shallow and snobby landscape of modern music. Robert Drisdelle’s guitar work and songwriting is deceptive and tasteful. Nick Dourado on bass and Tri Le on drums ground Drisdelle’s jazzier tendencies while remaining technical, propulsive, and melodic in their own right. While most of the songs on the EP are teched out pop numbers, they often have brief flashes of something a bit heavier which always leaves me wanting more. “Lost Angel” features the best example of this technique. For the most part, the song is reminiscent of early R.E.M. and features Keyu Song singing about someone who chose the wrong girl for a lover. Keyu Song’s melody—mirrored by Dourado—is the key to the song, as it’s been stuck in my head for weeks . The song becomes more than just catchy during the final bars of the bridge. Drisdelle lets out a perfect not-quite-solo that wouldn’t sound out of place in a heavy metal song, before landing right back into the wistful chorus; it’s so fucking awesome I could scream.

“River God” and “All This Unpleasantness” both expertly showcase the technical aspects of the band without ever feeling like they are being difficult on purpose. “Sunshine Realize” could be the love song of the year. Lyrically, it is personal and honest. Keyu Song sings directly to her lover—who happens to be Drisdelle—about how proud she is of them and how great it would be to just forget all their plans and sit in the sunshine, drinking wine. The band tiptoes behind her as she and Drisdelle escape this stressful scene, even if it’s just for the length of the song. Closing number, “Day That Didn’t Exist” is a beautiful acoustic foottapper; I’m sure if Paul McCartney heard it, he would be mad he didn’t come up with it first.

In an interview with The Imposter, Keyu Song revealed one of the ways she goes about writing lyrics. She picks a pop song and writes down the highs, lows, and the emotional arc of the melody. She then applies that arc to her own melodies. This insight is fascinating because in listening to Century Egg there is a trust I’ve been able to develop. The songs sound familiar, but not suspiciously so. There is also an innocence this EP that, once again, is refreshing. An indie band that doesn’t sound jaded in 2017 is a goddamn miracle in my books, but it’s more than that. I find myself agreeing with Bandcamp user aquakultre: “Century Egg takes me back to when I was 5, hunting snakes, and eating wild blackberries. Everyone has that something that makes them reminiscent of their childhood. Mine happens to be this band.”* River God isn’t nostalgic in an icky or cheap way; it sounds and feels too real for that. It removes the baggage of modern life and manages to sound like the first time you fell in love with a person, a song, or a place. It feels innocent but not infantile.

Century Egg’s music also manages to sounds political while avoiding explicitly political subject matter. It feels like the band’s existence is political in and of itself. In a recent episode of CBC Radio’s Ideas, about science, its limits, and its future, Margaret Wertheim talked about stagnancy within physics. She theorizes that the lack of diversity in the field has put a limit on what can be discovered;that different experiences and perspectives can lead to greater understanding,different approaches, and better ideas. Maybe indie rock has been plagued with the same problem and Century Egg are here to help.

*aquakulture’s comments have been edited for clarity


Lydia Ainsworth, Darling of the Afterglow

Lydia Ainsworth, Darling of the Afterglow

It’s easy to forget how big My Chemical Romance were. The too-cool type may lazily write them off as emo–the most taboo and redundant of the genre tags–but their importance to a generation of music lovers and not-quite-cool kids trying to make sense of the post-9/11 world cannot be overstated. They were the over-the-top, fun, awesome, theatrical and yes, emotional band that we needed. I try to avoid assuming the influences of artists, but when listening to Lydia Ainsworth I can’t help but think that she found inspiration in MCR. Not necessarily musically–My Chemical Romance were like a pop-punk Queen fronted by a man who at various stages of his career looked like a vampire and a skeleton–but the dramatic catharsis of Ainsworth’s music has a similar emotional effect and grandiosity to it; and damn do I love it.

The striking thing about the music and instrumentation on Darling of the Afterglow, Ainsworth’s second album, is how many ideas and sounds are packed into its eleven songs. There are club-worthy pop numbers, groovy slow jams and gothy meditations. It’s an album that needs repeated listens to unpack and fully digest everything that is going on.

“The Road” sets the mood of the album perfectly, showcasing Ainsworth beautifully layered vocals, but the album really kicks into gear with “What Is It?”–a delightful wouldbe late 90s pop number whose chorus is propelled by some brilliantly funky bass playing topped up with whimsical banjo and horns for accent. “Afterglow”, the album’s standout track is constructed around a minimalist beat and carried along by some quiet synth drone and Ainsworth’s apocalyptic, layered hums. “Spinning” is the album’s best contender to get people dancing, but it avoids any radio-ready tropes; the songs remains distinctly Ainsworth’s.

When the chorus of the album’s lone cover, “Wicked Game”, kicks in, it is breathtaking. Ainsworth’s incredible take on the sexy Chris Isaak classic, placed between ten creative originals, grounds the album and proves Ainsworth to be a great interpreter as well as a songwriter. “I Can Feel It All” sees the album reach its peak with some almost heavy metal drumming and an appropriately stadium-ready chorus. “Nighttime Watching”, the weirdest cut on the album, brings Darling of the Afterglow to an end but not before leveling the listener with one more infectious chorus.

Darling of the Afterglow is a powerful display of creativity, great song writing and smart production. While current rock music, especially the stuff the veers toward pop, feels devoid of drama and grandiosity, Ainsworth is filling a worthy space and is doing so with passion and individuality. Her songs might not change the colour of your black heart but they will certainly fill it up and inspire you to sing it out.


Colin Stetson “In the Clinches”

Colin Stetson
Marie Magnin

 

To be a true master of an instrument is to transcend that instrument’s boundaries.  Colin Stetson has made a name for himself with his own work and as a featured player on some of the most celebrated indie rock albums of this young century. His ability to create lush soundscapes and backbreaking symphonic cacophony with a saxophone is a wonder to behold. It can be so intense, loud, and unfathomably powerful as to cause the uninitiated (or inebriated)  to come dangerously close to spilling their guts across the venue floor (I know this from experience).

Stetson’s ability to sound like an entire orchestra with just one instrument is impressive (as he did on the Polaris Music Prize-nominated New History Warfare 3: To See More Light). It is an entirely different kind of thrill to hear Stetson’s unconventional sounds simultaneously conveying the raw, base emotions of underground music, the kind usually reserved for stinky basements outside the city limits.

“In the Clinches” is a taste from Stetson’s forthcoming record All This I Do For Glory, and it is a behemoth of a track. Its angry swirl and maniacal howl are urgent and without equal. It would be one thing to hear a full band like the Jesus Lizard make these wild sounds but it’s a whole different story hearing (and seeing) a lone human with a  saxophone emitting the same energy as a band plugged in, sweaty and turned up to 10.

Stetson riffs, drums and yells through his saxophone with palpable passion. It’s enough to knock you over or make you lose your lunch. What are the chances that a master saxophonist releases one of the best and heaviest albums of the year? Based on “In the Clinches” I’d say those odds are high.


Gregory Pepper and His Problems, Black Metal Demo Tape

Gregory Pepper and His Problems, Black Metal Demo Tape

A Smörgåsbord is a Swedish buffet-style variety plate, often featuring both hot and cold options. Maybe the options go together in obvious ways, like cheese topping a cracker, but occasionally you may find yourself mixing foods that aren’t exactly peanut butter & jelly. Even when the flavours you’ve chosen don’t mix, you at least get the personal satisfaction of controlling your own Scandinavian culinary expedition.

Gregory Pepper and His Problems consists of Guelph songwriter Gregory Pepper and his problems, which may or may not include self-awareness.

Pepper’s latest album is self-written, performed and recorded. He is the lone creative force behind Black Metal Demo Tape and because of that freedom, he has made an album that is exciting, raw and entirely unique. While Pepper has made a name for himself by writing perfect power pop, BMDT is almost lo-fi and features sonic nods to nearly every genre of guitar music. It is a sprawling and often contradictory experience, but Pepper’s liberated songwriting often yields beautiful results.

“Big Sister”, likely an ode to his older sisters introducing him to Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, is based around a drum loop and a wash of shoegaze guitar, topped with a chamber choir of Peppers. “Problems Theme Part 3” is a song that would make teenage Rivers Cuomo proud. “I Don’t Care” almost justifies the black metal typeface and the corpse-painted cat sacrificer on the cover. By the finale of “When We Were High” you are certain that, despite not being black metal, this weird and wonderful album is a perfect home for certain characteristics of the genre.

BMDT‘s darker, Scandinavian overtones brings us back to the Smörgåsbord. It really sounds like a melding of both hot and cold musical impulses. “Nothing Song” and “This Town”, despite the latter being thematically dark, are closer to the classic Pepper mold: fun and bright. “My Roommate Is a Snake and My Landlord’s a Bat” is a full on doom tune; think Ben Gibbard fronting Black Sabbath. It’s all brought to a frigid end on “Quirky”, which starts with a wall of guitar à la Deafheaven and in a flash becomes an acoustic ballad that is haunted by the sustained noisy drone of the intro.

Black Metal Demo Tape will be an enjoyable listen for any rock fan. Even if some of Pepper’s combinations seem weird at first, they become increasingly delightful as you get more and more used to the taste.


Yoo Doo Right, Nobody Panicked and Everybody Got On

Yoo Doo Right, Nobody Panicked and Everybody Got On

Last week, I attended the taping of what will be the first episode of the TV version of Long Night with Vish Khanna at The Great Hall in Toronto. The episode’s subject, discussed with esteemed music writer Carl Wilson, Shad and Jasmyn Burke of Weaves, was the often pondered and rarely answered “is rock still relevant” question. While the guests answered with a resounding but optimistic no, there is one facet of the question that was left relatively untouched: sure, rock music doesn’t sell as much anymore and maybe it’s not “relevant”, but is there still good rock music being made? If so, does only a handful of people caring mean it’s not worth anything artistically or otherwise? And what makes rock music “good” for that matter?

To answer those questions in a positive manner requires you to know where to look. The world (aka music websites, half empty venues, newsfeeds) is inundated with what I would (cynically) call recycle rock — rock music directly and intentionally influenced by a specific band, specific album, or a specific song. There is no attempt to hide the recycled nature of the music. Instead, the inspiration is often flaunted and used a promotional tool to entice people who are fans of the music being rehashed. There is a long history of this, and it can prove an exciting task for a music nerd to historically trace the influences other artists have had on the songs and artists they love. In fact rock music, and almost all popular music nowadays, was taken from some sound or artist or band that was influenced by another and so on and so forth. It’s evolution, baby!  Yet there is a key ingredient missing from this process, particularly in “guitar music” these days.

In reading Bob Mehr’s excellent history of The Replacements, Trouble Boys, I was struck by a Paul Westerberg quote about the song “Swingin’ Party”. Westerberg, a voracious music consumer and rock historian himself, had a long history of lifting melodies, chords, and song structures from older artists, but his goal was to try and mask that fact as much as possible: “If you steal from everybody, nobody can put a finger on you.”

It’s not easy to strive for a sound that is original. Bands can mine for years before stumbling upon a sound or vision that is unique, but as long as there is some intention of finding originality, their music has the potential to be both palpable and exciting. Take for example, Montreal’s Yoo Doo Right.

While my mind goes to many different musical places and touchstones while listening to their debut EP, Nobody Panicked and Everybody Got On, it showcases a band who are driven by a sort of musical manifest destiny. They sound absolutely determined to discover new twists and turns on the “guitar music” road map.

While the EP plays out like one long suite, its four tracks find Yoo Doo Right condensing the overindulgence of some of their psychedelic influences into tight and sophisticated songs that breathe with introspection, but also blast off with propulsive and often exhilarating fury. Though the vocals are sparse, they are used wisely and are delivered with a bite that elevates the already solid post-rock instrumentals. “Fear Of Elevators” pushes out of the foggy ambience of its front half like a neon freight train, while the title track’s primal repetition and digital-dream ambience is the best argument on the EP for why rock music may not be ‘relevant’, but can certainly be very good.

The question of whether it’s worth anything to try and push a bygone style of music forward is harder to answer; it’s a question that I struggle with personally and I can only imagine other artists do as well. “Worth” here does not equate to money, because if that’s the case everyone should hang up their guitars right now. It’s worth it for those who hear the music and recognize the band’s drive to create something special artistically. Musicians pushing their own music forward can have a great affect on other musicians and artists around them, hopefully inspiring them to be more than mere recycle rockers. The hardest question is whether it’s worth it for the musicians striving for new ground. I see bands keeping it simple, rehashing the same decent ideas over and over and getting more attention than most bands who are not as easily marketable or digestible, and I think “Why wouldn’t everybody just do it this way?”

It falls on musicians to push music forward, and to keep it worthwhile for fans who come to the shows and listen to the records, but the creators need to have reason to create. Music made with guitars, drums, and whatever else, has the potential to be, and often is great. There are countless songs and albums by countless great bands that can prove that, but they all did their best to avoid anybody putting a finger on them. Bands: avoid the finger. Fans: learn how to spot those artists and bands who you can’t easily pin down — they deserve your attention and your life will be enriched because of it. It’s your support that gives those bands a fighting chance to push further than we have yet to sonically imagine.


Jon Mckiel “Conduit”

Jon Mckiel, Sackville NB
Phillip White

Peace sign to America, a system of love

I’ve been listening to a lot of Propagandhi. No other Canadian artists, lyrically, have been able to match my anxiety and anger over last week’s historic turbulence and the terror of knowing that time will keep rushing forward. The future seems to hold more anxiety and anger for me, and more real life-or-death scenarios for many Americans and those in the crosshairs of its seemingly dwindling, but make no mistake about it, awesome and apocalyptic power.

“Note To Self”, the lead track off of their most recent album, Failed States has felt particularly prescient given this brutal week.

So much for your hopes and your dreams and your children.
You just sat there believing in this bullshit system.
Just wishing the mob would magically come to its senses.
How does it make you feel to know you just stood by and watched it?

How does it feel? To me, someone who doesn’t live in the states, goddamn it feels sickening. But this world, the system under which we live our lives has an amazing way of making individuals feel utterly powerless.

I marched in the Toronto Women’s March. It felt good, but I still feel bad. “Get involved in politics”, they say, “run for office.” Get out there, do your best, inevitably fold to the disgusting and demoralizing capitalist system that grips our reality and allows us to see the world through blood stained, but rose-coloured glasses.

“Optimism” is a word that has been thrown around a lot over the past few months. I suppose it’s necessary to keep your chin up during times like these. But it’s hard knowing, or at least feeling, like it’s going to take decades (and a ton of horrible shit that will affect the entire world) for the supposed sunny ways of yesteryear to break through the darkest clouds I’ve ever experienced as a citizen of the world.

Music is magic – please be ensured this is not a ‘Trump will be great for art argument’ – and its most enduring and important quality is its ability to capture true human emotion. Specifically the emotions of what it feels like to exist at a certain period of time. What is not magic, is the reality of process, production time and how long it takes for art to catch up with the world around it. A satirical tirade regarding a day’s events can be written in hours. A gut wrenching, soul turning song or album can not. Modernization and connectivity can be a real bummer.

I haven’t been able to write about music over the past month because nothing has a really captured how I feel. I’m writing this on Sunday, after the most shameful day in American history during my lifetime and a thankfully a beautiful gift arrived in my earholes. Jon Mckiel’s “Conduit” is political but hopeful. It sounds like a dystopian Constantines song. It will appear on Memorial Ten Count appropriately being released by Steve Lambke’s You’ve Changed Records, and offers best wishes to America. “Please police a system of love” cries Mckiel, his words collapsing over themselves in a disorienting rock n roll assault.

As a Canadian, it feels as though that’s all I can offer, a peace sign, best wishes, hopeful thought that you, everyone, all of us, will make it out of this intact. Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe my worry is unfounded. But as art catches up with the times I am comforted by the knowledge that I’m not alone. “Conduit” is the first of many anthems that will come to define this weird and unsettling period in history. Four minutes of hope, peace, and love is far better than unending dread. Wherever you’re located in the world, a break from the chaos is necessary, let Jon Mckiel’s “Conduit” be that hopeful break you need to keep your peace sign high in the sky.


The Luyas “Self-Unemployed”

The Luyas, Montreal QC
John Londono

Finding meaning in a song can require many listens. “Self-Unemployed” by Montreal’s The Luyas, is not one of those songs, not for me at least. I’ve been relatively “self-unemployed” for about a year and a half. While I was a student that didn’t seem so bad, but it is a vortex of demoralization once you can no longer claim studenthood, especially “when you don’t make money.”

That being said, as a musician, being self-unemployed is the goal. To be free of the normal day-to-day slog that so many people find to be an unfulfilling burden. It’s a nice dream and if you got the appetite (or a lack of literal appetite) maybe being a musician is right for you. The reality of being a musician, however, is that it’s damn hard to pursue your art and have nothing else propping you up. Even if things start rolling for a while, it’s pretty easy for the wheels to fall off the beautiful, flawed and fragile thing you and your friends have created.

It’s about balance, I suppose, and being able to laugh at the absurdity of modern life, especially modern artistic life. Hell, even people who don’t like what they are doing are being forced out of jobs or are unable to find work. “Self-Unemployed” balances the light and the dark side of being in a band perfectly, meaning it’s about 90% dark and 10% percent light. The swirling, ominous and intoxicating music is the constant uncertainty, and the lyrics are just tongue-in-cheek enough to bring the song above despair up to at most a nervous giggle. As a whole, though, as art occasionally does, “Self-Unemployed” defines modern, connected life for a generation hoping for some salvation from the challenges that lie ahead and just a bit of cash.


Elisa Thorn, Hue

Elisa Thorn, Hue

 

Interpretation and inspiration can be integral to an artist’s vision. For musicians, especially in the streaming age, every song is available and ready to be reimagined by cool upstarts who have done their homework but have little vision of what is next. The most exciting music takes its inspirations and does more than copy them, they shove it all in a blender and hope that the resulting sonic smoothie isn’t too chalky or too much like every other smoothie you’ve drunk this month. While this can be an extremely successful method, finding inspiration outside of music through other art forms can be just as exciting and often more rewarding and interesting.

Elisa Thorn is a harpist from Vancouver and her latest project, the aptly named The Painting Project and the subsequent album Hue is directly inspired by her father, Bruce Thorn, and several of his paintings. Each song is named after the painting it was inspired by, all of which are abstract and colourful. The project is not a mere gimmick. Each song has an abstract feel to it, and the collection feels warm, loving and exploratory. Accompanying Thorn’s magnificent harp playing is the highly efficient rhythm section of Justin Devries on drums and James Merger on bass.

I’m no jazz aficionado, but Hue feels well informed by the classics while still featuring modern flavors and experimentation. With Thorn’s harp as the lead instrument, there is a delicacy to these songs that would sound a bit more bombastic fronted by a sax or even a piano.  On “She Was Always Late”, one of several high points on the album, there are long, noisy breakdowns that would be much harder to enjoy and endure if they featured harsher sounding instruments. “Night Song” has a laid back and melancholic Cuban feel to it, Thorn’s harp acting as the guitar and horn section, and shows the depth of her musical knowledge.

Thorn’s true potential is most prominently displayed on “Reds”. It could pass as a post-2000 Radiohead tune, musically complex yet propulsive and emotional. Inspired by jazz, sure, but an incredible example of an artist using their influences and skill to create something magic. It also highlights how important risk taking is in music today. People love to feel safe in every aspect of their lives, including musicians, but Thorn is clearly a risk taker and a doer which in turn has made her an exceptionally creative force. Perhaps this fearlessness is inspired by her father and his own glaring ability to create beauty out of nothing and maybe that is why Hue feels so inspired and masterful. Despite being a master in a different medium than her father, Elisa Thorn has picked up her family’s torch and found her own voice. If Hue is any indication, she will keep running with it beyond jazz into her own sonic and artistic territory.


Tanya Tagaq “Retribution”

Tanya Tagaq by Katrin-Braga
Katrin-Braga

Tanya Tagaq’s latest album Retribution will be a defining album for Canada’s most original and integral modern artist. Not only does it occupy untouched spaces of sonic fury and guttural beauty but its’ message and mood will become woven into our history.

How the Canadian Government and the citizens of this country handle climate change and reconciliation will be a weight on the backs of future generations–so long as we get there–for hundreds of years.

Justin Trudeau has announced the approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project. Accommodating and consulting First Nations is all the government is required to do when planning major projects like these but according to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr they do not need “free prior and informed consent.”

It is likely the pipelines will be met with noisy protest from Coast Protectors, enough to halt the process entirely.

I’d like to suggest that Coast Protectors, and all Canadians really, take the call to action at the heart of “Retribution” and the song itself as an anthem and mission statement of their fight.  

“Retribution” moves with a focused propulsion that is simultaneously calming and energizing ; perhaps ‘calmly energized’ is the right mindset for protesters and activists to have, at least to start.  

The mantra during its’ introduction speaks directly to the effect money and oil production and relocation have had on Mother Earth. “We squander her soil and suck out her sweet, black blood, burn it. We turned money into God and salivate over opportunities to crumple and crinkle our souls for that paper, that gold. Money has spent us.”

“Demand awakening” from those who don’t see how this would profoundly affect future generations of Canadians both environmentally and on the path to reconciliation.

As “Retribution” reaches its climax and Tagaq lets out her final cry, there is such a satisfying release that it clears your mind, makes you see things clearly and makes you want to stand up for the future.

Take Tanya Tagaq’s art to heart.  Let it inspire you to look at things differently. “Ignite. Stand upright. Conduct yourself like lightening because the retribution will be swift.”


Monomyth, Happy Pop Family

Monomyth, Happy Pop Family

Monomyth sound stoned, yes, but one should not infer they sound stupid. In fact, Monomyth is just the opposite. They are lyrically sharp, musically economic and highly efficient in their song structuring. They have no tricks up their sleeve production-wise, but the tracks on Happy Pop Family are coloured by this blissful laziness that is endlessly enjoyable.

On the surface and perhaps at first listen, certain aspects of the band feel underwhelming, maybe too simple. That is Monomyth’s trick though, they pull you in with a great hook or two and force you to listen deeper. Once you catch the wave they are riding, you realize the brilliance of their craft. The guitars, despite not being played at blazing volumes, are more intricately shaped than they sound and are often heroically executed by songwriters Josh Salter and Seamus Dalton. “Palpitations”, for example, sounds like early R.E.M. if they had two Peter Buck’s. Even more than the guitars, the rhythm section appears pedestrian at best, but in Ringo-like fashion they hold everything together and then some.

Happy Pop Family is bursting with lyrical, melodic and tonal references to rock n’ roll past that will further entice any true music nerd. “Cool Blue Hello” has a recurring Big Star reference. “Re: Lease On Life (Place To Go)” channels Loaded-era Velvet Underground and then perfectly erupts with a guitar solo tonally identical to the solo on Television’s “Marquee Moon”. “Fuck With Me” ends with a beautiful half time version of the chorus of “Don’t You Want Me Baby” by the Human League. “New Year’s Resolve” features a lick and tone floated from “Octopus’s Garden”.

The lyrics and melodies, like the music beneath them, are rich but simple. “Puppet Creek” is a masterwork in this regard. The latter-half of the song could be the greatest lyrical recreation of the ups and downs a band goes through on the night of a show I’ve ever heard. Changes and shifts in mood happen so fast you could miss them if you aren’t paying close attention or don’t know how they feel first hand. The songs ends with an advertisement: “‘Ring of Fire’ shirts on sale”. I’ve been singing that line for weeks and man does it ever make me want a “Ring of Fire” shirt. There is a song about loving your hometown (“New Year’s Resolve”) and a song about wanting to be hated by everyone in that town (“Aloha”). Salter and Dalton write about normal stuff in thrilling ways. Sunshine, love, drinking in bed, getting t-shirts printed, the first snowfall of the year are all addressed with a sharpness made almost fatal by the hooks they work into their words.

Starting with the album cover, Happy Pop Family seems simple, maybe even a little silly but Monomyth know (presumably from experience) that the best way to draw in a listener is to lure them with something that appeals to the childish desires of the human mind and then suck them in deeper with layers of complexity and meaning. Happy Pop Family is a great achievement in that sense. You feel the joy right away but the richness of the songs will keep you coming back again and again with softened edges and a sense of wonder at the mundanity of it all.