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The Music Room

Witch Prophet - Gateway Experience

 “This is a dream,” Ayo Leilani intones in the first seconds of her third album as Witch Prophet, her reverbed voice stretching over samples of waves. Leilani’s Gateway Experience (Heart Lake) is a meandering voyage that recasts her experiences with focal seizures as something beautiful. The lyrics describe the distress of disorientation: “Don’t take my breath away,” she repeats on “Dizzy.” Musically, though, the album is anything but chaotic. Leilani’s wife, who produces under the name SUN SUN, crafts meticulous spacious arrangements with jazzy basslines. Trumpets riff with saxophones to add a sense of warmth.

The album’s title comes from a US Army investigation that looked at altering consciousness via sound tapes. Reclaiming these explorations from their military-imperialist context, Gateway Experience uses a series of loose vocalizations and relaxed beats to chronicle the intangible, urging the listener to lean back and let the mind wander. If the individual songs occasionally feel repetitive, collectively they add up to a sound with a refreshingly light touch. This is an album made for summer speakers, perfect for wafting over parks and ­balconies and letting Leilani’s gentle vibrato lift you up into the haze.

Arctistic - Anirniq

In 2021, Vulture’s Justin Curto declared that rock music was no longer dead. Heavily influenced by nineties nostalgia, Nicolas Pirti-Duplessis’ second album as Arctistic hammers home Curto’s point, reinvigorating those crunchy guitars we know so well. On Anirniq (Independent), Pirti-Duplessis’ lead vocals and guitar performances call to mind Cobain and Kiedis, paired with backing vocals from Sandrine Chouinard and throat singing from Evie Mark. Rumbling vocals from Mark add sonic texture and a propulsive rhythmic force, helping tracks like “Storm” develop from its pared-back opening to an explosive climax.

Pirti-Duplessis sings in both English and Inuktitut, exploring mental health crises, the impacts of colonialism and the threat of climate change. The title track, catchy enough to be an early-2000s radio hit, describes, in Inuktitut, the story of an Inuit spirit that hides from Christian persecution. Your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about this specific era of music, but Pirti-Duplessis brings fresh depth to the sound, taking a classic form and making it his own.

Feist - Multitudes

The opening track on Multitudes (Polydor) almost feels like misdirection. Feist’s sixth album as a solo artist begins with thunderous percussion on “In Lightning,” before pulling back to reveal its true flight path. Multitudes turns out to be an intimate journey, more delicate than ­turbulent, anchored by Leslie Feist’s emotive acoustic guitar and lush vocal arrangements. Inspired by adopting her daughter and losing her father, Multitudes is a piercing meditation, an arrow shot gently through the heart.

If the album title is a bit bland, the lyrics are another story. On “Forever Before,” Feist sings of the courage required to love, the song’s final lines a gorgeous revelation: “You can’t begin to prepare / for forever before / she’s sleeping right over there.” On “Love Who We Are Meant To,” she sits with herself: “I cannot write nor reckon it / so will I let it wreck me?” These quieter tracks are offset by the sinister soundscapes on “I Took All of My Rings Off” and the rallying cry of “Borrow Trouble.” Throughout the record, Feist insists that love and grief are perhaps one and the same; neither is finite or discrete. There is cyclicality to all things, she insists, as she calls on gods, friends and strangers to listen.

Ky - Power is the Pharmacy

If Multitudes situates loss within a cycle, on Power is the Pharmacy (Constellation), grief cracks everything open. The debut record from Montreal art punk Ky Brooks gets its title from political theorist ­Achille Mbembe, who writes about power as a source of both healing and destruction. Power is the Pharmacy embraces this duality; the album is a stunning work of experimentation that brings together drone, darkwave and free jazz to find life in the wreckage.

Brooks had been developing these songs for years, but they took on new forms during Montreal’s lockdown winter of 2021 and then again the following summer, when Brooks’ Lungbutter bandmate Joni Sadler suddenly passed away. On the title track, Brooks explains via distorted vocals that healing is like “uncracking something.” With flourishes of noise, “Revolving Door,” finds an opening to another universe: “I approached my dream from behind / and stole its magic.” Throughout, instrumentals hum, pulse and squeal.

Brooks’ poetry bridges the personal and social. On album standout “Work That Superficially Looks Like Leisure,” they repeat variations on a kind of incantation, building in intensity: “Suddenly! / No not suddenly! / But with a fantastic regularity and remarkable softness! / I woke up and decided I knew how to work!” Their mounting exhilaration makes it clear that this “work” is not necessarily wage labour, but the work of making and caring in the face of devastation. How terrible and lucky it is to work, to continue.