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The Winter 2017 Music Room

In his final years, Gord Downie raced against his own mortality, battling to play every Canadian city and awaken fans to Canada’s colonial history before his body shut down. Introduce Yerself (Arts & Crafts), released a week after his death, is the heartbreaking final chapter in his quest to leave nothing unsaid. Each of its twenty-three tracks constitutes a farewell letter to a particular soul. “First Person” is an ode to Downie’s mom, the “first person to lean down and kiss me good night”; “My First Girlfriend” is a fond (if on-the-nose) recollection of a beautiful, bookish flame; and others pay tribute to children, friends and bandmates. Even the more cryptic numbers, likely indecipherable to few but their subjects, drip with warmth, humour and love. This posthumous autobiography skips the awards shows and nationally broadcast Tragically Hip concerts in favour of quieter moments, like bringing a child to bed. The tracks on Introduce Yerself  aren’t likely to supplant “Bobcaygeon” in the Canadian campfire canon. Instead, they are sacred, meant to be kept close and cherished.

St. Vincent has always been an alien icon. Her angular dance moves, her 8-bit instrumentation, her dystopian lyrics—none of them seem to belong to this planet. Her new album, Masseduction (Loma Vista), remains stubbornly in the stratosphere. Its stories are the stuff of Black Mirror episodes: “Pills” is a shot at the overmedication of modern society with nursery rhyme–simple melodies; “Los Ageless” is a tale of a town where “winter never comes” and “the mothers milk their young.” On such a hyperactive album, where frenetic electronics and relentless pop beats reign, it’s the restrained songs that stand out. Opener “Hang on Me” is a tender declaration of dependence, and on the piano ballad “Happy Birthday, Johnny” her voice quavers as she quotes an estranged lover asking, “How could you do this to me?” For a second, you remember that behind her moniker, St. Vincent is Annie Clark, a human like the rest of us.

On “The Light,” the penultimate track on 4eva is a Mighty Long Time (BMG), Big K.R.I.T. raps, “I got freedom of speech but with nothing to say.” It’s a funny thing to hear eighty minutes deep into a dense twenty-two-track double album featuring verse after verse about Christ and Cadillacs, family and fame, the South and himself. Big K.R.I.T. sounds like a fighter going twelve rounds in a boxing match: though he stays standing, his morale wanes, and the cocky bravado of the first disc (released under the K.R.I.T. sobriquet) gradually fades into honest insecurities on the second (released under his legal name, Justin Scott). He’s undoubtedly after the rap crown on the fierce early track “Confetti,” but by the time he reaches later cuts like “Drinking Sessions,” jaded boasts about his crib and whip come across instead as aching laments. The Jekyll-and-Hyde act works—the record teems with both explosive flow and moving introspection.

Toronto’s spunky punk four-piece Weaves could have coasted on the success of last year’s scrappy self-titled debut for as long as they pleased. Instead, after months of whirlwind touring, they returned with Wide Open (Buzz Records), a sparkling, straightforward follow-up. The band trades improvisation for smartly structured pop rock, putting the spotlight on frontwoman Jasmyn Burke’s twangy hooks. She riffs on the personal and the political, sometimes in the same song; on the blistering opening track, “#53,” she cries, “I am a woman who feels the plight of these walls” before breaking into a chanting chorus: “I don’t wanna think about you again.” But Burke and co.’s most unbridled impulses come out on “Scream,” a track that blends thrashing drums and Tanya Tagaq’s throat singing into a terrifyingly apocalyptic climax.

Daniel Caesar drops the word “love” on Freudian (Golden Child Recordings) the way Colin Farrell drops f-bombs in Phone Booth. Unrequited love, unexpected love, untameable love—they’re all the young Toronto singer seems to think about, and it turns out they make excellent fodder for smooth slow jams. On opener “Get You,” the slinky single that captivated Caesar’s hometown earlier this year, he croons about supposedly unshakeable devotion. When that devotion gets inevitably broken, like on the pick-me-up piano anthem “We Find Love,” Caesar remains stubbornly optimistic. Rather than treading into the dark, cynical world of The Weeknd-style R&B, he doubles down on hopeful falsetto melodies, angelic gospel choirs and jazzy piano progressions. Freudian may not convince you that love is perfect (or even desirable), but it will convince you love is real—if only because Caesar feels it so intensely.