Avalon Tassonyi 

Vain Mina • 2023

Candlelightning has the refreshing, healthy glow of someone finding themselves geographically, spiritually, and emotionally.

The other day, I saw a tweet from “szinger-szongrájter” Avalon Tassonyi wishing that someone would write a bad review of their album, Candlelightning. If Tassonyi meant that they are hoping for a negative review panning the follow-up to their 2022 self-titled album, then, sorry, this is not it. If, instead, they are looking for a poorly written review, then the jury is still out on how this one will turn out, but I’m hoping to bat 0 for 2.

I get the sentiment behind the tweet and feel Tassonyi’s struggle for attention in the crowded music marketplace. Writing and recording as Inland Island from 2012 to 2020, Tassonyi recently moved over to making music under their own name through Vain Mina Records, the imprint started by Eliza Niemi (Tassonyi plays guitar in her band as well as taking on drumming duties for Whitney K). Decamping from the urban centres of Montreal and Toronto to the idyllic farming community of Niagara-on-the-lake, Tassonyi infuses Candlelightning with folky vibes and the refreshing, healthy glow of someone who is finding themselves geographically, spiritually, and emotionally. Look no further than the opening lines of the first track, “Yes or No,” for confirmation that Tassonyi is in a good place: “I’ve got a car now / And I can go wherever I want / I just leave it parked out front / I guess I’m happy where I’m at.” 

Continuing Conversations

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There’s a tendency lately (and I won’t mention any names) for overly fussy musical arrangements that I find somewhat off-putting. Like using a power washer to water plants, this propensity for over-production is overpowering, but thankfully not something to which Tassonyi prescribes. On “Planting a Garden,” Tassonyi plays with botanical metaphors — “Red seeds in my fingers / pushing deep into the soil / Could it be that soon enough the Earth will break again / Or will worthless be my every toil?” — while they let the simple yet direct musical arrangement paint the song’s emotional arc. I can endlessly listen to the homespun wisdom of “Three Twenty-nine” and “Deer Song” and the slow jazz balladry of “You Snuck up on Me” and “End of the Road.” Tassonyi’s arrangements perfectly support their sometimes delicate lilt or hushed delivery with lush flourishes and sweet melodies.

Returning to their maternal family’s peach farm has afforded Tassonyi a change of pace and surroundings that have positively influenced their work. If they were aiming for mediocrity, then thankfully, Tassonyi has failed: It’s theoretically impossible for anyone to have anything negative to say about Candlelightning. Better luck (NOT) next time.

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