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Eric Chenaux, Say Laura

Eric Chenaux, a longtime Toronto-based (he’s now based in France) folk/jazz/pop experimentalist and improvisor, in collaboration with another stalwart Toronto improvisor, Ryan Driver, crafts playful, beautiful, and weird poppy ballads on his newest record, Say Laura. No note lands where you think it will. The songs’ wonky instrumentation (mostly guitars, electronics, and an electric keyboard) reminds me of a popsicle in July heat or my new favourite emoji [https://emojipedia-us.s3.dualstack.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/thumbs/160/apple/325/melting-face_1fae0.png]. Which is to say that they sound like they are melting and you have to hold out your cupped hands to gather each note. • Laura Stanley 

Blunt Chunks, “BWFW” (Toronto ON)

On the scorching new Blunt Chunks single “BWFW,” Caitlin Woelfle-O’Brien’s frustration and loneliness are emphasized by a squealing distorted guitar played by Mother Tongues’ Lukas Cheung. This pop-punk-influenced track will have you headbanging but then you hear Woelfle-O’Brien repeat this devastating gut-punch of a line: “When I’m with you, I’m alone.” So now you’re headbanging while also crying which is thankfully still very punk. 🤘😭🤘 • Laura Stanley 

Clara Engel, Their Invisible Hands (Toronto ON)

Toronto’s Clara Engel describes their music as uneasy listening, and while that might turn away some potential listeners, it had the opposite effect on me. Engel’s newest album, Their Invisible Hands, is a collection of haunting and intimate works that mix elements of folk, minimalist blues, and experimentalism. When they sing, every word feels immediate and important. Even on the many instrumental songs, Engel is able to create soundscapes that are dark yet inviting, simple at times, yet incredibly powerful. ‘Their Invisible Hands’ might be some of the most enjoyable uneasiness you’ve ever thought possible. • Daniel Field 

Fine Form & Nic Hyatt, Clementine / Satsuma (Yukon / Ontario)

Clementine is a two-track EP from Fine Form (Brodie Conley) and Nic Hyatt, two former bandmates in Future States who are now collaborating long-distance. Hyatt moved from Ontario to Whitehorse in 2018, and in 2020, they began trading improvisational sketches with Conley. Through a back-and-forth exchange of ideas and inspiration, they came up with their electro/acoustic sound that blends ambient synths with piano. The two tracks document the creative process (“Satsuma”) and the finished product (“Clementine”) but hopefully, this just marks the start of more remote collaboration for Fine Form & Nic Hyatt. • Jim Di Gioia 

Harper Bizarre, “Anxious​-​Ambivalent” (Toronto ON)

“Anxious-Ambivalent” — an emo/rock song from Toronto’s Harper Bizarre — sounds notably easygoing for a song filled with so much apprehension. Ghosts float in and out of this track as lead singer Megan Boni mulls over various relationships and their impact, which leads to this tentative and vulnerable question: “will you be sweet to me?” • *Laura Stanley 

Heaven For Real, Sweet Rose Green Winter Desk Top Tell This Side Autumn Of The Fighter Hot In A Cool Way (Halifax NS / Toronto ON)

Heaven For Real win this month’s (probably this year’s, too) award for most unwieldy EP title: Sweet Rose Green Winter Desk Top Tell This Side Autumn Of The Fighter Hot In a Cool Way may be a tripping hazard on your tongue but the band’s jazz-inflected art-rock is a delight on the ears. Originally from Halifax and now based in Toronto, the band blends musical textures and influences just as easily as they do song names in their EP title. You’ll find trace elements of ambient atmospherics, bubbly pop, and free-wheeling jazz on the EP’s truly heavenly six tracks. • Jim Di Gioia 

Lammping, Stars We Lost (Toronto ON)

Ever wonder what it would have sounded like if Stereolab had recorded Master of Reality? Or what Van der Graaf Generator might have done with Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space? Give a spin to Toronto 70s-soaked psych-rockers Lammping to find out. The band’s EP, Stars We Lost finds the perfect way to mix what might seem like polar opposites into a potent and powerful cocktail. Lammping are truly warriors on the edge of time as tracks like “Home of Shadows” and “Golem of Garbage Hill” suggest. I think I’m in love. • Jim Di Gioia 

lil Omar, Marlo EP (Fredericton NB)

Oscar Tecu (lil Omar)’s all-instrumental, glitchy/jazzy/poppy, keyboard-driven Marlo EP is so playful that it unlocks memories of being a carefree kid. “Pumpkin” will take you back to bobbing for apples while It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown plays in the background, and when you listen to “Pony,” you’ll be back to brushing the hair of your My Little Pony. The only thing you have to worry about is keeping your Tamagotchi alive. • Laura Stanley 

Tess Roby, Ideas of Space (Montreal QC)

Montreal-based Tess Roby’s debut album came out four years ago, a collection of mellow synthy dream pop released on cult favourite label Italians Do It Better. Her newest release, Ideas of Space, is somewhat of a reintroduction to her world filled with bigger synths, meticulous production, and lush songs that are as immediate as they are complex. Roby’s vocals are warm and resonant, and her instrumentations match her ambitions wonderfully. On the album’s title track, she builds layers of sound, from ambient pads to wordless vocals and percussion atop a repeating arpeggio. What could sound repetitive in other hands feels enormous, emotional, and inviting. Ideas of Space is an album where you can almost hear her sweat, with every fitting just right, the result of countless hours that have absolutely paid off. • Daniel Field 

stucco, “Free Motion” (Calgary AB)

Calgary’s stucco refers to their hometown as the “crumbling-metropolis-turned-corporate-theme-park” backdrop for their angular post-rock music. “Free Motion” is a two-years-in-the-making song about “self-acceptance and moving forward despite uncertainty, despite polarity, and despite our failings,” which musically speaking is non-existent. The band of Andy Lehman, Daniel Auger, Daniel Bejarano, and Jonathan Reynolds all spent time in other bands in their local scene before the pandemic brought them together. Regardless of its theme of uncertainty, “Free Motion” is a confident and compelling slab of urban decay set to song. • Jim Di Gioia 

Your Friend Brennan, Seas of Noise (Vancouver BC)

Vancouver’s Brennan Doyle wrote Seas of Noise after a lot of introspection and time alone, but this lovely little album doesn’t at all feel isolating. As Your Friend Brennan, Doyle anchors his songs around piano, and each song feels like a story you paint yourself in your mind, especially with terse song names like “P.S.” and “Meaning.” The occasional horns and synths add some welcome flourishes of tonal colour and take the songs in unexpected directions, making this sea of noise as rough or as calm as you need it to be. • Michael Thomas

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Deanna Petcoff 
To Hell With You, I Love You