NOW HEAR THIS | News from around the world – VC Reporter
by Alan Sculley, Final Words
This week’s edition of Now Hear This is a global music experience, with new releases by artists from Sweden, France, London, Canada and the United States. These bands all have one thing in common: the music that makes these albums stand out from the crowd.
The Tragically Hip
When The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie died of cancer in 2017, his death and the demise of The Hip were a blow, as the group enjoyed popularity in the arena for much of it. his 33-year career. They are still one of the best bands ever to come out of Canada. Now the surviving group members start digging in the vault, and Saskadelphia offers the first batch of unreleased songs. Recorded mainly during sessions of Hip’s excellent second album, 1991’s Road apples, the six songs on Saskadelphia would have been songs featured on most bands’ albums. “Crack My Spine Like a Whip”, “Not Necessary” and “Ouch” are good examples of the kind of tense, melodious and passionate music that has become Hip’s signature. Meanwhile, the EP gets some variety of “Just As Well”, a rocker with a bit of Rolling Stones bluster, and “Reformed Baptist Blues”, which despite its title has a punk / rockabilly kick. The only non-studio track is a live version of the song “Montreal”, a slower burning anthem with lots of muscle and grain. The Hip always wrote and performed at a high level until Downie had to move away from music, and the band is sorely missed. But I hope Saskadelphia is the beginning of a constant flow of EPs or albums of unreleased songs. It’s as essential as any Hip album.
Jessie Lee and the Alchemists
Let it shine
France isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of the blues, but in Jessie Lee and The Alchemists the country appears to have a world-class blues-rock band. Guitarist / singer Lee is a powerful singer with a bit of daring and flexibility in her performances, while the rest of the band form a close accompaniment unit (with guitarist Alexis “Mr. Al” Didier and keyboardist Laurian Daire rolling out awesome solos and ongoing fills). More importantly, Jessie Lee and The Alchemists have the songs. There’s a bit of hard rock lurking in the band’s influences, like the songs “Another” and “You Gotta” have a lot of crunch to go with sharp melodic hooks, while the big rock riffs of “Sometimes” play surprisingly well with a little soul swing. The soul side of the group resurfaces on “You Took My Mind Away”, a song that oscillates between silky and melodic moments and a powerful rock. “Get Out of My Head” is a bluesy mix that packs a punch, while the bluesy ballad “One Only Thing” suggests the band can exercise restraint when it suits the song. Just Jessie Lee and The Alchemists second album, Let it shine is rich and accomplished enough that one wonders how much this group can improve.
Favor of Fortune
The Sheffield, England guitarist / singer enjoyed some success as a songwriter for 15 years in the band Reverend and the Makers, which landed four UK No.1 independent singles. So it makes sense that Cosens doesn’t sound like a newbie as he steps into the limelight on his accomplished debut solo album, Favor of Fortune. On songs like “Lovers Blues”, “On The Run” and “Running On Empty”, Cosens incorporates graceful melodies into Brit-pop songs that are mixed with some folk touches and no hint of the pretension that sometimes filters through the song. Brit-pop. That said, there are many elegant moments on Favor of fortune. “The River” has a beautiful melody set to a tempo that almost qualifies as a waltz. Sweet notes of acoustic guitar and strings weave around the pretty vocal melody of the ballad “Last to Know”. And “If”, an epic ballad with a magnificent melancholy vocal melody and a lot of drama, may be the highlight of the album. Cosens might have had a good thing with Reverend and the Makers, but Favor of Fortune suggests he is too talented to play a supporting role in a group. Cosens is clearly ready for his close-up.
Be the girl
This Swedish singer is praising Europe as one of the country’s best new talents since the release of her EP Boys in 2017. The four-track EP Wave, which followed a year later, only increased the buzz. Now Koch-Emmery picks up where she left off with her first full album, Be the girl. Don’t look for many heartbroken singer-songwriter awards here (although “Wake Up” and “Lasershot” show Koch-Emmery can write some very appealing pop guitar ballads). American fans can compare the music of Koch-Emmery to Grace Potter or Metric on arena-worthy rockers “Hologram Love” and “Dirty Words”, and there’s a little Florence + the Machine on the poppier but still quite enough. epic “Hard to Love”. At other times, Koch-Emmery’s sound borders on grunge on “Blow My Mind” and there is a new quality in the energetic “No Place for You”. These rockers all come with the kind of bright, effortless pop hooks and big choruses that immediately grab attention. All signs point to Koch-Emmery having a bright future.
Destroy your life
This Chicago group calls their music pop / power trash scum. And yes, there’s garage rock heckling, grain and grease to the music on Destroy your life, Old Joy’s second full-length effort. But that doesn’t take into account the songwriter talent that sneaks into the songs of lead man Alex Reindl. For example, “Hook, Line & Sinking” might just be a declaiming, jubilant rocker on a one-sided, exhausting relationship, but the strings running through the verses elevate the song with unexpected musical grace. Meanwhile, the chirping guitar sounds and tiered guitar solo of “Don’t Get Me Lost” soften the song’s jagged replacement tendencies. And don’t miss the pop hooks that make rock songs like “90’s Baby”, “Baby Below You” and the very playable title track, although Old Joy also releases some stinging and dissonance tracks along the way. And then there’s the country rocker “I Wish I Loved You (Cuz I Really Like You)”, who is deceptively charming in his vulnerability. Yes, Old Joy is suitable for your next rager, but the music on Destroy your life is more advanced, intelligent and emotional to be dismissed as bar band fodder.