Something’s missing here but you should still stick around

by Matthew Blackwell


cd-psiloveyouPS I Love You
For Those Who Stay
Paper Bag Records
3 out of 5

For Those Who Stay plays out like the album equivalent of one of those “all in one” guitar amplifiers, where distortion and reverb compete with outlandish effects like phasers, delay and flange. PS I Love You’s third full-length (and first recorded in a professional studio) fools around with basically every setting and mode, resulting in a grab-bag collection of songs that I guess are a sufficiently pleasing ode to the possibilities of the guitar.

If there’s one thing besides production noodling that binds these tunes together, it’s guitar. Nearly every song features a full-frontal six-string assault, though the attacks come on different fronts. “Advice” is a sludgy, fuzzed-out riff-rocker nestled between the unfortunately trite acoustic song “Bad Brain Day” and the jangly “In My Mind At Least,” a Replacements-esque number that sounds like a long-forgotten cut from that band’s 1985 classic, Tim.

With several songs pushing six minutes, For Those Who Stay easily jams disparate styles into single songs — the title track abruptly switches gears halfway through from spaced-out jam rock to a (somewhat misplaced) tribute to AM radio bands like The Eagles and Boston. This sort of eclecticism might work a bit better if there was more to anchor it. PS I Love You is a duo, and Paul Saulnier’s virtuosic guitar skills aren’t enough to carry this album. Saulnier’s vocal delivery — half Frank Black, half Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade — finds its limits rather early on. On Pixies-esque songs like “Friends Forever” it works, but anything that needs more nuance than yelping falls flat. Drummer and back-up singer Benjamin Nelson can only do so much.

For Those Who Stay’s production also can’t compensate for the lack of a bassist in the band — the best two-pieces, like Death From Above 1979 or Cannon Bros., don’t seem to need additional instrumentation, but I think this band might benefit.

PS I Love You just seems to be missing something that no amount of synthesizers can compensate for.

Saturnalia Regalia!
3.5 out of 5

Monomyth comes in sweet right off the top of their Mint Records debut. The Halifax band is pining for someone they don’t even know the name of on the first track, “(Theme From) Monomyth”. But even the sugary bits –– “Won’t you be the apple of my eye?” and all that ––are quickly followed by a reminder of death: “Take me for a ride until we die and burn away. It’s so easy.” The track after that even features “If I wasn’t high, I’d probably blow my brains out” as the last sung line.

For all its fun guitar pop –– the latest in a series of fun guitar pop from Mint like Tough Age and Jay Arner –– Saturnalia Regalia! also has an undercurrent of high-grade miserablism.

Along with a lot of twisty guitar interplay, their jangly guitar is evocative, whether it’s the appropriately titled “Downer” or “Something Else”, with its chorus of “I want something else” (duh). The key change will slay you if you’re the type to get slain by a key change. /James Brotheridge

Royal Mountain
4 out of 5

Toronto-based Alvvays’ debut is an impeccable balancing act, bringing a relaxing yet intriguing experience. Their beach-y rock evokes nostalgia while still feeling new. The lyrics are sarcastic and filled with angst, but when combined with singer Molly Rankin’s soft and youthful-sounding vocals, they hold a nonchalant whimsy to them. The jangly guitars and simple drum contrast with the complexity of the lyrics, highlighting the catchy hooks that make this album memorable — the songs are perfect for singing in the shower.

In addition to bathroom sing-a-longs, this could also be the perfect soundtrack for a great movie about prom or high school football or self-discovery or all of the above. /Eden Rohatensky

cd-jennylewisJenny Lewis
The Voyager
4 out of 5

Who the fuck said dudes have a monopoly on middle-age crises? Women do them way better. On her third proper solo album (not counting side projects like her 2010 collaboration with Johnathan Rice, I’m Having Fun Now), former child actor (Troop Beverly Hills) and Rilo Kiley frontwomen Jenny Lewis cruises into the bittersweet sunset terrain  of middle age in style. From ticking biological clocks (“Just One Of The Guys”) to LTR malfunctions (“She’s Not Me”) to screwing around (“Slippery Slopes”) to friendship-wrecking jealousy (“Late Bloomer”), Lewis charges toward her 40s with insight, wit and a wink.

The Voyager is all over the map musically, from dreamy pop to twangy-twang to guilty-pleasure, retro-TV-theme jangle. Throughout, the vibe never strays far from the 70s. If you want to browse before you buy, check out the video for “Just One Of The Guys”, which features fun cameos from famous people in track suits and fake moustaches. /Stephen Whitworth