At the heart of every song on Edmonton band Wares’ sophomore album is band leader Cassia J. Hardy’s tangible drive towards healing and recovery.

There’s a moment on WaresSurvival (the Edmonton band’s sophomore LP) that takes my breath away every time I hear it. It’s the bridge on “Tall Girl” when Cassia J. Hardy sings: “Last I heard, last I saw, you had a job at the mall. Second floor flower store, you dressed like you ran the show.”

Prior to, Hardy sings about the titular girl — a friend of a friend. Even though they meet only once and Hardy is so shy she barely speaks, Tall Girl has a profound impact on Hardy. Maybe it’s a song about having a crush on somebody and a missed connection, but it makes me think about this frame from Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home. To see somebody embodying who you want to become is incredibly powerful. But seeing them succeed and being happy is one of the most encouraging things ever.

Survival is an album about exactly that. In an email to The Fader, Hardy explains: “Survival is a story of recovery from past trauma, a non-linear path of healing and disruption”. Throughout the album, we hear about an uncomfortable doctor’s appointment (“Living Proof”), how destructive capitalism is (“Jenny Says”), graphic violence (“Violence”), and so much more. There’s a lot of heaviness in the lyrics, but what is consistently strong is the tangible drive to survive that lies at the heart of each song.

Hardy’s voice on Survival is one of the best voices that you will hear this year. She is tough and tender, distilling multidimensional emotions into memorable hooks. There’s both pop-punk songs (I would have listened to “Surface World” during the throws of my punk phase in the early aughts) and shoegaze softness on Survival. There is beauty and strength. There is survival.

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