Stay Tuned! is a deeply moving, intensely musical instalment of Dominique Fils-Aimé’s grand plan.

Ambitious. Musical. Trilogy.

Three innocuous words on their own. String them together, though, and they can potentially amount to the kiss of death. Many a brilliant, good-intentioned artist has fallen victim to the audacity of their own creativity, but not Dominique Fils-Aimé. The Haitian-Canadian singer-songwriter is batting two for two with Stay Tuned!, the second installment of a planned three-album song cycle exploring the history of African-American music through an intriguing dissection of genre and style.

Stay Tuned! is a decidedly minimal fourteen-song affair. Rolling through gospel, jazz, and soul with aplomb, Fils-Aimé’s band provides the perfect showcase for her stunning, evocative voice. An executive summary of the record’s lyrical themes reads like a graduate-level dissertation. The album’s Bandcamp page describes it as delving into “the civil rights movement of the 60s” through an exploration of “several significant socio-political events which deeply affected the course of black history (Lincoln Hills Country Club, Little Nine Rock, Emmett Till).” In practice, Stay Tuned! is highly tuned into Fils-Aimé’s songcraft. Opener “Good Feeling” is a “new dawn” rooted in rhythm, it’s mostly acoustic arrangement signalling a shift from 2018’s blues-based Nameless. “Where There is Smoke” is a similarly smouldering, a capella based slow-burner; its sister song “There is Probably Fire” ignites into an emotive gospel number featuring a choir of Fils-Aimés and a lone trumpet stoking the flames.

While rooted in more traditional genres, Dominque Fils-Aimé infuses Stay Tuned! with a 21st century sensibility. It’s in the subtleties and nuances; the way the arrangement makes room for her words to and intentions to land their punches; how Fils-Aimé’s voice caresses your ear while simultaneously bending your perspective (“Gun Burial”’s mantra “You don’t treat me like the queen you keep telling me you see “ is an oft-cited stand-out statement).

Anticipation is ramping up for the third record in the series, set to explore contemporary hip-hop and dance music, but the middle section is definitely no stop-gap. Stay Tuned! is a deeply moving, intensely musical instalment of Dominique Fils-Aimé’s grand plan.

Alexandra Stréliski
No Museums
The Artifact Is Nothing