Ignorance (Next Door), Tamara Lindeman’s fourth record as The Weather Station, is a record about rhythm. Like many other folk-influenced artists, the Toronto singer-songwriter has expanded and reimagined her sound, which now includes sultry strings, curious saxophones and playful synths. It’s the first album she’s written on keys instead of guitar, and the shift gives her compositions a fresh sense of space and depth. The songs have a new groove—Lindeman’s band is the record’s beating heart. They announce themselves on the opener, “Robber,” swelling in via an extended jam before Lindeman’s voice finally arrives, cool as air. This is still her show, though. There may be less room for her wordy poetry, but the lyrics that do shine through are as imagistic as ever. On “Atlantic,” she sings of watching a sunset and trying to forget bleak news headlines. On “Tried to Tell You,” she empathizes: “Some days there might be nothing you encounter / to stand behind the fragile idea that anything matters.” Rather than encouraging escapism or nihilism, though, Lindeman has an affinity for life. A climate activist in her spare time, she understands just how precarious that affinity is. Ignorance, in this way, charts the rhythms of the external and internal: a bird catches your eye in a parking lot, a piano riff lifts and descends. And Lindeman sings through it all, occasionally humming like no one is even listening.
The first seconds of for, now (Independent) set the tone for the rest of the album: a fuzz guitar and a voice in the distance, so quiet you might miss it. Tasy Hudson’s debut EP as mara wild is a haunting collection of four tracks that will creep under your skin if you let them. Montreal-based Hudson previously released music as Consilience, a bedroom-pop project, but mara wild is darker and murkier. Hudson seems to have been influenced by her time playing drums in the experimental rock band Big Brave—she sounds at home here in noise. Big Brave’s Robin Wattie also collaborates on the title track, where voices meet in the space around the fuzz guitar’s mournful chords. The latter half of the EP brings in beats, keys and electronic elements that balance out the guitar focus. There’s a sadness to most of the songs that feels both lethargic and reflective; Hudson sings about hesitancy, longing and the natural world around her. The stellar “Flying” features her vocals at their clearest and poppiest: “Waiting for a garden that don’t wanna grow,” she sings as the instrumentation drops out, “I had a dream but I don’t want you to know.” Despite the lyric, on for, now, Hudson conjures a reverie and invites the listener in to sit with the feeling.
Yellow River Blue
Yu Su’s debut record,Yellow River Blue (bié Records), borrows its name from China’s second-longest river. The record itself often feels like a synthetic manifestation of ebbs and flows, veering from energetic dance tracks to meditative electronic music to experimental soundscapes. It’s a journey worth taking, as the Vancouver-based artist deftly guides the listener through rapids and calmer waters. Opener “Xiu” is at once frantic and soothing, with noise coming in and out over chaotic percussion, while delayed vocals cascade above. On “Klein,” flutes and strings warp towards a psychedelic hyperspace, calling to mind an alien abduction, or maybe a walk along an ocean floor. Throughout, Yu Su treads this line between the natural and the synthetic, establishing her own distinct sound in the process. She draws on elements of traditional Chinese music, as well as pop and ambient music, bringing them together in spacious configurations. The tracks never quite go where you expect them to, and small shifts hit just as hard as dramatic entrances. The album is meant to reflect Yu Su’s experiences of touring and displacement, the relationship between alienation and home. It makes perfect sense, then, that the sounds seem to be both of this world and beyond it, carrying the listener downstream, wherever that may be.
Midnight and Other Endings
Ghanaian-Canadian singer-songwriter Kae Sun returns with Midnight and Other Endings (Independent), his first project since 2018’s Whoever Comes Knocking. The five-song EP, accompanied by a short film, explores desire and faith, often as one and the same. The tracks are downtempo and sultry, reminiscent of Frank Ocean and Miguel. Woozy synths and soulful vocals dominate; reverbed guitars and muted bass lines fill out the space. On “404 Eros,” Kae Sun sings of a relationship on the verge: “We could be in love already / like newborn gods who found God.” God is both something to be and to find; love exists within and above. EP standout “Bright Lights” begins with a couple of chords and abstract lyrics about revelations, before the synths crescendo and Kae Sun’s voice begins to break: “Heard police dogs barking /heard they tearing down cities.” A synth underneath him sounds almost like an alarm. Midnight and Other Endings is an EP to sink into; Sun creates a poetic atmosphere that leaves you wanting more.