Masahiro Takahashi—Humid Sun
Humid Sun (Telephone Explosion) was
envisioned as a reprieve from winter.
Toronto-based composer Masahiro
Takahashi was inspired by the city’s
seasonal slush to create a record that
reaches for warmer pastures. Humid Sun
doesn’t feel like pure escapism, though.
While consistently peaceful and calming, the record also
evinces a boundless curiosity. Takahashi’s ambient electronic
works don’t seem to be running from, but rather floating
The album’s ten tracks call to mind the kind of music you
might hear at a spa, but devoid of the capitalist pressure
to relax at a designated time in a sanitized space. In other
words, Takahashi’s compositions go where they feel. On “East
Chinatown Stroller,” sprightly synth stabs accompany an
upward-drifting piano. On “Fantasy in Soy Sauce,” twinkling
highs balance out hollow lows. Birds chirp; winds rush.
Takahashi’s parts speak to and with each other.
Takahashi is joined by a host of collaborators, most notable
of which is perhaps is Joseph Shabason and his soothing
saxophone. Throughout, there is a sense of wonder that
makes me think of the underwater scenes in the Pokémon
video games I played as a kid. In the best possible way,
Humid Sun conjures that childhood feeling of encountering
something new, approaching it tentatively, and watching
your world expand.
Kat Duma—Real Life
On Kat Duma’s Real Life (Independent),
something sinister lies around the corner.
From the opening chords of a warbling
organ, the debut record from the Toronto
artist and DJ operates with a dream logic.
Duma's whispered lyrics are almost
impossible to make out, but what comes
through is the feeling of a thick fog and an uncertainty about
whether there is anything solid on the other side.
Real Life seduces you into its mist. Duma’s hypnagogic
style is frequently gorgeous. Her delayed vocals and
chugging beats borrow from dub, dream pop and ambient
music, calling to mind artists like Carla dal Forno, Maria
Somerville and early Nite Jewel. Like these other songwriters,
Duma blurs the edges of her compositions so that the style
becomes substantial. Snatches of phrases emerge: “Looking
for it in the earth / wishing till it hurts / wishing till it hurts,”
she sings on the stripped down “So Long.” Whether working
in a more acoustic mode, or veering towards sci-fi synthetica
on tracks like “Ana,” Duma proves herself to be a master of
mood. Longing, introspection and reflection are offset by the
sense of something unmoored and unnameable, hovering
just out of sight.
Mayfly—HIDEAWAY, Vol. 1
Milk & Bone are the reigning pop duo
of Montreal, but Mayfly may soon join
their ranks. On their EP HIDEAWAY, Vol.1
(Duprince), Charlie Kunce and Emma
Cochrane display an impressive felicity
with smooth pop production and intimate vocals. HIDEAWAY drags in parts, but
it announces a talent (or two) worth watching.
The EP stands out for its upbeat tracks like “Take Me Away”
and “Passenger Seat,” both of which feel expertly designed
for blasting on the highway. The pair's vocal styles perhaps
lean a little too hard into Billie Eilish territory, but they make
excellent use of vocal production tools, sampling their voices
and turning them into rhythmic features. The mix leaves
enough space for every sleek synth and crisp clap, while
still creating an overall effect that feels dark and brooding.
The lyrics are not the focus here; they serve to establish
and contribute to a vibe. I mean this as a compliment: these
are main-character-syndrome tracks, pop songs that make
you want to imagine your life as a movie filled with drama,
despair and long drives to nowhere in particular.
Debby Friday—GOOD LUCK
It would be hard to find a more confident
debut than DEBBY FRIDAY’s GOOD
LUCK (Sub Pop). After two EPs, the
Nigerian-born artist and producer
arrives with a full-length project that
is almost astonishing in its fully-formed conception, asserting FRIDAY’s
industrial-party sound as one of the most exciting in the
current Canadian music scene. GOOD LUCK is a high-intensity
rush, made for both the dancefloor and the bedroom. “Don’t
you fuck it up,” FRIDAY intones over throttling snares on the
album opener, a mission statement for an album that doesn’t
FRIDAY, who has lived in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto,
was inspired to write this record after her nightlife lifestyle
imploded in 2017. The album’s throughline is a back-and-forth between certainty and uncertainty. On the exquisite
pop song “So Hard To Tell,” FRIDAY gives advice to a younger
version of herself. “Lady Friday, all you do is rebel,” she sings
over an extremely catchy vocal loop. Meanwhile, “I Got It,”
featuring Chris Vargas of Uñas, is a hard-hitting club track,
all bravado and kick drum.
FRIDAY is sometimes playful, sometimes vulnerable.
“Hot Love” turns pain into punk catharsis, as darkwave synths
are overwhelmed by a shrieking chorus. “Safe” finds her
quieter; “So scared to check if you’re still there,” she sings, her
voice pitched down. Album closer “Wake Up” refuses a quiet
conclusion: with layered vocalizations and glitching noise,
FRIDAY keeps you hanging on until the sound stops, and
the sun rises.