cutsleeve’s debut is most definitely a fully-formed record, that leaves the band room to grow.
Lately, I’ve found not only writing about new music to be increasingly difficult but listening to it, too. In large part, I blame it on the seemingly widespread belief that an artist needs to come out fully formed and defined by the time they drop their first single. Social media has made it such that, in order to gain any traction, a new band feels the need to tick off specific boxes so that they are easily slotted into people’s psyche thanks to metrics and algorithms. The current pandemic ensures that the days when a band can find their way and develop their identity through public performance are long gone. Some days it feels like the norm now is to drop a single and set up an artist page on Spotify three weeks after your first rehearsal.
It’s not only refreshing to hear about a band like Toronto five-piece cutsleevetaking their time developing their sound and style, but it’s also a welcome reminder that being intentional and thoughtful offers more in the long term than being timely and trendy. The band’s debut EP, the parts we could not abandon, is a focused, finely played affair. Firmly rooted in garage rock aesthetic, the parts we could not abandon is the authentic work of a band and not manufactured by a brand manager. My colleague Mac Cameron recently commented that cutseleeve reminds him of the Tragically Hip, which at first I thought was an unlikely reference point, but on closer listen to the parts we could not abandon, feels accurate in the sense that both the Hip and cutsleeve are multifaceted, multi-dimensional bands that can’t be summed up in one sentence.
There’s a gritty swagger to tracks “1989”, “durian eyes”, and “don’t (like me)” that feels like a blend of up-start mid-90s alt-rock played by seasoned bar band veterans. “durian eyes” features the EP’s catchiest chorus, an earworm that’s nearly impossible to shake once you’ve heard it; “don’t (like me)” blisters with punk-infused intensity as it races to its cathartic conclusion. They sit snuggly beside slow-burner “flesh”, bluesy closer “shatter”, and the cutting sarcasm of “yellow fever”, making the parts we could not abandon a brief but wholly satisfying listen. What’s most notable — and noble — about cutsleeve is that, while their debut record is most definitely a fully-formed record, the band leaves themselves room to grow. I fear many music fans will not see beyond the “queer East Asian rock band from Toronto” headlines that surround cutsleeve, which would be a crying shame; doing so would be ignoring their deep musicality and refreshing sincerity.