tuques – slushpuppie

 

It would be easy to take the name tuques as an acerbic tribute to the winter that smothers this band’s subzero wastescape of a hometown, Edmonton, Alberta, for eight months a year. Too easy to start scratching parallels between the rich squalls of guitar washing around inside their short-playing debut, slushpuppie, and the numbing chill of said city’s long-playing winter that had barely begun as of the EP’s October 2014 release date. Too easy to apply easily qualifiers like frozen, stolid, ominous, bleak — to place easy genre tags or invoke the names of the architects whose halls these excellent songs echo around inside of.

What’s far from easy, though, is what tuques accomplish with greater and greater success on each of slushpuppie’s six movements.

Give opener ‘no cops’ exactly two seconds to tower far beyond sight and shower down onto you broken shards of category and expectation. Let second track ‘stay with me’ remind you that the human voice, divorced from lyric or intellect, is as an effective instrument as any. The uncluttered romance of ‘alone’ illustrates best what a band wielding this much fire is capable of: clearing out, with each new turn, wider and wider patches of territory previously thought subdued. A song as simple as ‘together’ fascinates with its plodding floor tom majesty and near-wordless moaning glory. Equal credit here goes to the immaculate engineering and production on this short collection that allows tuques to spirit an angry gale through their amplifiers and to conjure melody from stone.

What’s also far from easy is capturing a release like slushpuppie in words on a screen. So listen.

J. Eygenraam – Brutal Love

 

J. Eygenraam’s Brutal Love opens on a lone tambourine, frothing for a tick like an anxious bottle of champagne before its cork pops on the irresistible cascade of guitar trickery that is ‘What’s Hip?’ It’s the kind of song and album opener that people are shushed for talking over, as the volume knob strikes six o’clock and eyes close in appreciation. It’s the only possible way to introduce the world to a songwriter as brave as Eygenraam and his collection of fun and daring songs.

Immediately thereafter lands the helpful and hilarious ‘Don’t Be Sad’, a dead-on New Wave therapy session where we’re told plainly that “pain is lame…” and that “…feeling bad is dumb.”

From that point Eygenraam and his band – whose own contributions are confident and lucid throughout – expand over hills of ripped denim rock and contract through keyholes into intimate places of tenderness and hurt.

It’s when these threads meet and run through the title track that J. is at his most eviscerating. ‘Brutal Love’ bursts through the batwing doors, a staggering, bruised piece, stabbing the organ cathartically on the 8ths, stumbling to regain its footing at the ends of phrases. Our bloodied narrator stomps through the song’s whirling mood, stopping only to ask “was my love not worth more than sex and dirt?” only to satisfy the hanging query when, as a refrain, he confesses: “I’ve been played the fool by brutal love.”

It’s a perfect and poignant climax to a tidy album whose short span you won’t need prompting to spin again and again.

Soh Yung – Coastal Winter

If you’re like me, you’re studying and writing papers for the next two-three weeks and your mind is on full melt. You need that cool. Soh Yung, I’ve discovered, is an artist working out of Edmonton in the familiar and endlessly interesting space opened up by the whole witch house crowd a few years ago, and I have in mind particularly artists like Holy Other, oOoOO, and DROPXLIFE right now. Coastal Winter is a windy record soaked in heavy rain and empty spaces (especially on “Dreams VIP”). It has a consciousness of its own, which you are more than welcome to adopt for the 27 minutes this album envelops you. Crack those books. Close all other internet pages. Soh Yung; repeat.

Good luck.

Duns Broccoli – Creatio Ex Nihilo

Some people like Yung Lean. They should stop. They should like Duns Broccoli instead, cause he does something similar but with so much more substance and ingenuity. It is the entropic apathetic stream of consciousness rap that so befits our age. “I wish Obama never ruined hope […] the lights are getting darker, the darks are getting lighter, whites are getting blacker, blacks are getting whiter, grey first lady, grey president beside her.” You’ll find this instance of culture entropy in “Smoke Pit,” a jam for which the hyper-minimalist beat is in and of itself deserving of merit and careful analysis. If you can dig “Smoke Pit” you will love the beat Duns deploys for “James Bonjas” where he starts “I’m sick of licking sledgehammer heads.” The stream of consciousness continues: “My thoughts glistening, bitumen, picture him, he’s so different, spit dope, distill it […] barf, gargling scraps of burnt cartilage, in my car parked, carving nautical stars into my cardigan, _____, I stop then I start again.” This style of lyricism is the bane of weaker rappers with less interesting thoughts, but Duns Broccoli is more than equal to the task.

Duns has a swagger that doesn’t come from chest puffing but from a deep seated alienation marked by postmodern apathy and fragmentation, a Jamesonian fragmentation reflected in the seeming disconnection between one line and the next. It is a point Lukács and Benjamin have both made: in an industrialized (post-industrialized) mode of being, every moment is disconnected from its last by the utter repetition. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that this has entered into culture through the constant repetition of commodified formulas for entertainment production. But, as many theorists have argued in their various ways (Witkin, Adorno, Bourdieu, Lukács), art has this ability to reveal the contradictions, whether or not the artist is conscious of it or simply embodying the spirit of their time. In the case of Creatio Ex Nihilo, we are shown the repetition and dispossessed candour of modern rap and modern life, playing off raps formulas but inventing a whole new form ex nihilo for Duns to occupy on his own. He thus breaks with expectation and narrows our focus to encapsulate the whole of the genre and all its sad contradictions. This is when art stops being palliative and starts ripping bandaids off.

A moment of revelation: this is what life sounds like for the young of the 21st century. As Jameson describes it, the decentered subject no longer feels the anxiety of high-modernism—but that means they don’t feel anything in and of themself, just the ‘intensities’ of emotion that come from everywhere and nowhere, a host of itinerant zeitgeists that visit themselves on us like a curse. Youth in the 21st century is a decentered space of bitterness, overwhelmed by entertainment, constantly told to buy shit we can’t afford, told to get a job when no one is hiring, told to go to school just to keep us off the labour market. We occupy an age-class that has been attributed (and expected to manifest) a surface physical beauty (“sexiness”) in the death rattles of a 2400 year old epoch where the seen is the true. We are the age-class that is to vicariously fulfill all the repressed wishes of our parents: go wild, drink too much, take our shirts off, fuck around, stay out impossibly late, get into the right kinds of trouble, supply stories for the news, HBO, hollywood, the tired imagination of our parents. We are the age-class that is converted into the symbolic target of mass marketing, the ones who wear what you should be wearing, the ones who drink what you should be drinking, and yelp and board greyhounds and make up words and have tumblrs. But in reality this age-class is occupied by real people with real needs who confront a multitude of doors we are told to enter, each one resolutely closed by the generations that have preceded us with their fucked economics, their fucked politique, and their fucked ideals. Lucky are the few who don’t feel this. Cursed are the ones who feel it most strongly. If anyone wonders why so many young rap artists are starting to sound like Duns Broccoli, (though often not as interesting), just look around. Tolkien passed down this dictum from his throne of privilege: “Not all those who wander are lost”—it’s hard to be lost if no one is trying to find you. “Pretty nice guy; just wear black so you don’t talk to me.”

Marlaena Moore – Beginner

Marlaena Moore is a north star. Her voice cuts like the wind. Her songs are brutal. Each song has the heft of a large stone, teetering on the precipice of a Sisyphean pinnacle. These are heartbreak songs—the kind you expect from a Beginner in love. But they are by no means a beginner’s effort in their straight faced execution. This debut exceeds Moore’s years. Many of these joints remind one of certain nineties K Recs releases. “Sleepless in a Summer’s Sky” is the summer love-lost jam par excellence. It could easily find a home on a John Cusack film soundtrack. It is strange to know that Moore’s backing band is none other than Desiderata, Edmonton’s absolute in mathy virtuosity. Hearing what those three are capable of makes the control of the instrumentation on Beginner stand out in sharp relief. They compliment the swells and flushes of Moore’s massive voice with a honed sensibility only time and dedication can accrue. The record is a solid stone from first to last, completely coherent and begging repeat as “What You Need” closes out the record as if it was only starting the record all over again. It’s a gift.