Register Thursday | May 23 | 2024

The Spring 2024 Music Room

Maky Lavender - Acoustic

Montreal rapper Maky Lavender’s ­Acoustic is a kind of retrospective, stripping down songs from his last three albums to lay them bare for the listener. It’s an exercise that exposes the core of Lavender’s songwriting and performance. What comes through the strongest is his charisma and sense of play—at times melancholy, at times blustery, Lavender always sounds down to mess around and try something unexpected. 

Acoustic is no-frills, with a single guitar and the occasional tambourine or cowbell accompanying Lavender as he raps about love, work and working on himself. “Hours” is a satisfying takedown of shitty jobs (all jobs?): “Maybe they gon’ give me some hours / My manager addicted to power,” Lavender sings, sounding both salty and spirited. The acoustic version has an intensity that’s missing from the original, with Lavender able to take up more space in the sparser arrangement. Throughout the record, Lavender takes an endearingly loose approach; “let’s keep going,” he decides in “Life’s a Beach” when he stumbles on the chorus. Though not every song benefits from the sparseness, Lavender’s best tracks, like the sorrowful “Bloom,” shine in these intimate renditions. The creak of his voice on the refrain is as hard-hitting as any lyric.

Sarah Rossy - Seemingly Insatiable Waves

On her new album, Seemingly Insatiable Waves, Montreal’s Sarah Rossy is asking questions. “Will I be good enough for love?” she wonders on “Here, Now.” “Do we ever cease to grow?” she inquires on closing song “Space to Grow.” Rather than needing answers, Rossy is more interested in exploring and chronicling her uncertain state through a dreamscape of whirling synths and entrancing vocals. Rossy’s jazz training provides the compositions with spontaneity and precision simultaneously; her vocalizing, a highlight of the album, is both unruly and controlled, beautiful and slightly unnerving. 

Rossy’s style calls to mind artists like Kate Bush and Weyes Blood, musicians who similarly abstract their inner states through grandiose themes and arrangements. “What a Time to Be Alive,” the album’s centerpiece, pushes back against prescribed happiness via an almost Pink Floyd-esque maximalism (Rossy calls it a “dad rock dissociation anthem”). The final track takes a more classic singer-songwriter approach, helmed by a gentle acoustic guitar, and offers one possible answer to Rossy’s questioning. “We need space to grow,” Rossy repeats over a busy arrangement. Yet she ends the song with piano and voice trailing upward, suggesting that even that answer remains open to revision.

Jahmal Padmore - The Wooz

The Wooz, the new record from Toronto songwriter Jahmal Padmore, has a hazy, almost hallucinogenic quality to it. “Sun is shining over me / Am I who I wanna be?” he asks on the album opener before a heavy guitar echoes his vocal melody. Much of the album carries this sense of sun-drenched existentialism, like a musical mirage that evokes someone caught up in the thick of something. “Round up my L’s take them out to the sea / if giving it up means I get back to me,” Padmore sings on “Lazarus” over insistent staccato keys. On “Friday’s Rain,” soft steelpan percussion contrasts with a harsh bass sound, emphasizing lyrics about toughness as a performance; eventually a ghostly chorus , sounding almost out of reach, comes in to sing the refrain, “I’ll keep holding on.” With The Wooz, Padmore brings together a range of genres from calypso to punk—he used to play in punk duo The Carps—but the album carries its own strong and distinctive style, expansive enough for detours like the electronic “Not Long Now,” while cohesive enough to hold together a probing, personal work. 

respectfulchild - 更新 re​:​new

更新 re​:​new, the sophomore full-length by Saskatoon violinist respectfulchild, begins with a series of full, harmonious chords that seem as though they could be the introduction to a straightforward contemporary classical record. What follows, though, is a deconstruction of composition as respectfulchild reworks the function of the violin, using it for percussion, drone and noise; challenging the rules of classical music and, analogously, the gender binary, in the process. 

更新 re:new draws a parallel with the body of the violin and respectfulchild’s own body,” states the album’s description on Bandcamp. The first composition, titled “assignment,” connotes both rigid classical music training and the coercive assignment of gender at birth. As the album develops, respectfulchild moves away from harmony and toward tension, discordance and eventually complete cacophony. On “bubble,” they pluck occasional dissonant notes that echo, clashing with the sounds that follow. On “turmoil,” droning strings gather into a swarm of bumblebees, later joined by nightmarish screams and glitches as the album builds to a peak. Closing track “beauty” then serves as a calm recalibration. Harmony emerges in the form of a choir the parts of which are beautiful and dense—complex rather than confined.