Red Deer-born, Toronto-based Rebecca Emms, who writes and records music as TOVI, says that she had a lot on her mind when she wrote her latest beat-laden track, “Across the Border.” “Part of me felt really hopeless and nihilistic at the beginning of the pandemic,” she says, echoing feelings many of us experienced and are now revisiting as the one-year mark of living with COVID-19 comes into view. TOVI says that, at the same time, “Part of me felt like it was the time to really buckle down and get things down, drive forward.”
That drive is evident on “Across the Border,” a pop-tastic synthy and seductive tune. Its ominous undertones are in the tradition of synth-pop greats like Depeche Mode, but Emms’ production style is all her own. She forgoes heavy bass for a lo-fi aesthetic that heightens the tension of TOVI’s lyrics: “Give me a wire, set shit on fire / Now that nothing even matters / All I really want is you.” Her ghostly harmonies convey the same dichotomy of her feelings, sounding empty and dejected at the same time as being determined and driven. With a potential reprieve — if not the full-on beginning of the pandemic’s end thanks to the vaccine— on the horizon, TOVI’s “Across the Border” is a reminder of how far we’ve come and encouragement to keep moving forward.