This City is a love letter to Sameer Cash’s ever-changing home.
There’s a mural by visual artist Jesse Harris located near Queen and Ossington in Toronto that reads, in big white letters, “YOU’VE CHANGED.” Since these words arrived in 2012, its message has grown louder. Toronto has changed and not for the better. It has become a shell of its former self: arts venues are closing in rapid succession and affordable housing is being replaced by overpriced condos, just to name a few issues. The rich are getting better digs and the poor are dying.
Toronto-based singer-songwriter Sameer Cash’s This City is a love letter to his ever-changing home. But his letter is not effusive — Cash is angry and tired. “We work until we’re shattered in this basement,” he sings on the piano-led title track. “If this city keeps pushing me out, I’d like to see it live without me,” he spits. A few tracks later, on “$3000,” his resentment remains: “This city has left us fragile and filled with doubt.” Even a line like “all my heroes are dead or dying” from “Nothing At All” feels particularly cutting when you listen to it while walking the broken-glass-lined sidewalks of a place that people are fleeing from.
Curiously, This City is a quiet record — almost as if in protest of the garishness of the city in question. Cash uses a full selection of instruments — drums, bass, guitar, and piano — but they sound warmly muted. It feels like a blanket has been placed over each instrument or like these songs are being played in the middle of a group hug from the people who fight with you everyday for a better life. The loudest Cash ever gets is on the opening track “Keep Keeping” when he screams, “Honey, don’t die on me!”
So why would I call This City a love letter? For the second time in a Dominionated review, I will reference the movie Lady Bird and ask, “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”