The DOMINIONATED Newsletter is a monthly(ish) round-up of music and creativity from across the country, bringing reviews and recommendations from our writers right to your inbox.

Astral Swans, Astral Swans (Calgary AB)

For a pandemic lockdown album, Matthew Swann sure did gather a gaggle of friends and collaborators for his self-titled third album as Astral Swans. Julie Doiron provides her pipes to some songs; Jim Bryson and frequent Swann collaborator Scott Munro (Preoccupations) lend a hand, as does Wares’ Cassia Hardy and producers Brock Geiger and Paul Chirka. A litany of friends and featured players doesn’t amount for much if the songs don’t stand up, but that’s never been the case with Swann: Astral Swans is the most assured and lush set of songs Swann has ever written. Astral Swans is a blend of sunny walks and maudlin strolls down real-life streets that inspired the melodies and metaphorical strolls exploring the very act of existing during troubling and uncertain times. • Jim Di Gioia

coldblackcoffe, coldblackcoffee (Kingston ON)

The discomforting taste of cold, black coffee often causes me to jolt and shudder. However, when it comes to the musical stylings of coldblackcoffee’s self-titled second instrumental release, I feel as though the warmth and intricacies of the grooves are as energizing as a fresh pot of dark roast. In just over 25 minutes, the flavourful percussive tones and layers of synthesizes have me fully awake, focused and ready to conquer the day. coldblackcoffee leaves no grinds in the bottom of the weathered cup, nor does it fail in revitalizing you when the need for caffeine is imperative. • Michael Beda

Keeper E., “Fourteen” (Nova Scotia)

Keeper E. already released what I think is one of the best Canadian records of the year, The Sparrows All Find Food, and now, she is keeping up the momentum with a track as good as any she has released so far called “Fourteen”. Made in collaboration with fellow East-coast electronic-pop practitioner Waants, “Fourteen” finds Adelle Elwood expressing the often contradictory and crushing feelings of wanting more out of life and the push and patience it takes to make those dreams come true. “I wish every day was longer, my skin it just can’t hold me,” she sings, giving credence to the feelings of defiantly optimistic young people everywhere. If the best pop songs allow you to see yourself and others around more clearly, “Fourteen” is a freshly polished mirror that makes that defiant optimism look very appealing and maybe even necessary. • Mackenzie Cameron

Kicksie, “Too Well” (Toronto ON)

When listening to new albums I find myself taking what I like to call the “All My Friends” test, which goes something like: “Do I enjoy this album more than All My Friends by Kicksie?” The answer is pretty much always, always, always no. I don’t have a test like this for individual songs but Kicksie’s new standalone single “Too Well” would certainly elicit a yes from me. It’s a mid-tempo emo-pop hook-fest with layers and layers of Kicksie, typically incredible lead guitar and brilliant lyrical study of a friendship that was doomed from the start. • Mackenzie Cameron

LFLS, LFLS (Vancouver BC)

Although the identity of Vancouver act LFLS (Low Fidelity Love Songs) is a mystery, the type of music that they make is no secret – it’s in their name. In their latest lo-fi release, deceivingly bright and catchy poppy melodies are captured with the grit, honesty, and heart of LFLS intact. • Laura Stanley

LITTLE LOVER FRIENDS, “Super Power” (Vancouver BC)

It’s a tale as old as time (sorry!): two high school kids meet at a singing competition where neither of them wins. Then years later, she reaches out to him about a gig that never ends up happening (thanks, COVID!), but a musical partnership takes shape, leading to love. But LITTLE LOVER FRIENDS isn’t a band (“It’s a mindset.”), insist Victoria Groff and Chris Clute. Both continue to pursue solo projects while coming together to make songs like “Super Power.” Groff and Clute’s voices fit together like puzzle pieces already connected when you empty the box on the tabletop. “Super Power” is an instantly hooky pop delight from this dynamic duo. • JD

Moël, Tamir, Nicole Chambers, “Now It’s Late”

Ethiopian-born songwriter, guitarist and producer Moël has low-key been one of the most prolific artists in Toronto over the past year, releasing an album, an EP and another album’s worth of singles. His latest, “Now It’s Late,” is one of his strongest offerings yet, perfectly fusing his penchant for trance-like refrains and ever-building — and often thrilling — pop-hooks. The song begins as a blurry duet between Moël and Brampton singer Nicole Chambers, but after a mid-song beat switch, things really take off thanks to some impressive guitar work and an arresting verse from Tamir, whose ability to seamlessly switch from being a rapper’s rapper to a singer’s singer is unparalleled. Expect more greatness from all three of these artists in the future and give thanks to Moël for bringing them all together here. • MC

Sunnyside Uppers, “Mary” (Saint John NB)

I’m not one to usually fall for a throwback banger like “Mary” from Saint John-based project Sunnyside Uppers, but who couldn’t use a little jolt of electricity nowadays? “Mary” isn’t all sunshine and roses, though; below the song’s alterna-punk-pop surface beats a dark heart trying desperately — maybe too much so? — to hold onto a love that’s slipping through his fingers. • JD

Wolf Willow, “Does the Sun Know?” (Regina SK)

Saskatchewan’s Wolf Willow is an intriguing proposition. Tagging their sound as “countrypolitan,” their latest single “Does the Sun Know?” is a lush, twangy, and sophisticated existential emotional ride. By casting the sun and moon as opposing forces. They are rivals in the sense that each yearns for what the other has while oblivious to that longing. They are two heavenly bodies, radiating light in their way, yet entirely in the dark. It’s a beautiful metaphor set amidst a beautifully orchestrated song of bright passages and shadowy melodies. • JD

Matty Grace 
Dysphoria City Limits EP
The Garrys 
Get Thee to a Nunnery