ALBUM REVIEW: Mozart’s Sister “Field of Love”

Montreal-based Caila Thompson-Hannant, aka Mozart’s Sister, is set to release her latest album Field of Love on Arbutus Records this Friday, a throw-back to Nineties dance pop and all its glittery, upbeat glory. Thompson-Hannant started working on the record in 2015 as a follow-up to 2014’s Being, and says in a press release that the writing process occurred “at a point when [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][she] truly did feel [she] was floating in a field of love.” Those feelings are made evident as the LP’s theme of love comes back again and again, showcasing the butterflies, the warm fuzzies, and that exciting yet scary feeling behind falling deeper in love with someone.

The album kicks off with “Eternally Girl,” an idyllic, charmingly discordant number full of expectation and desire. It makes sense as an opening track – she’s diving headfirst into her music and the feelings that inspired it, simultaneously putting a more positive spin behind the usually stigmatized act of giving yourself entirely to a partner. Following that, “Moment 2 Moment” plays through a first date, full of uncertainty and excitement relayed by punchy drums and pointed synths that emphasize a youthful delight.

Her single “Angel” brings things down a bit, ethereal and drowsy. Thompson-Hannant’s vocals rise and fall in a beautiful cacophony alongside slow, bubbling synths that both puncture and echo it. It’s the type of song that’ll resonate after it ends; listeners will be inclined to hold it as dear as the heavenly partner Thompson-Hannant places on a pedestal in the song’s narrative. Almost everyone has entertained the idea that someone they’ve fallen for is literal perfection, and this track does that all-encompassing type of love a justice.

“Bump” is more provocative and titillating, hinging on repetition and charismatic production. Similarly, penultimate track “My Heart is Wild,” is a whirlwind, up-tempo dance track with just a hint of drama to it. Both tracks feel destined to get large crowds moving, satisfying those cravings for a crowded dancing floor. These tracks assert Thompson-Hannant’s empowering confidence; she pursues romance on her terms, a nod toward the importance of self-preservation in a relationship. She gets caught up, falls head over heels, but doesn’t forget the dance she performs is a delicate one.

“Who Are You” grounds the album; Thompson-Hannant belts “I love you” over and over, the passion and dedication dripping from her vocals. It’s a reflective and honest piece about devoting yourself fully and totally to someone, the reimagining of screaming your love from the top of a building. As if those declarations weren’t enough, Thompson-Hannant closes the record with “Baroque Baby,” describing her partner as a picture of perfection who was “good from the start” as their relationship comes full circle. Sonically, the track milks a nostalgic Nineties R&B vibe, at some points recalling Destiny’s Child classic “Say My Name” with its drops and fast-paced vocals. Overall, the album brims with peppy, feel-good vibes that’ll have you swooning, both for its musical content and maybe your own special someone.

Field of Love is out Friday – pre-order it here, watch the video for “Angel” below, and catch her as she kicks off her tour in Brooklyn Thursday night with a show at Silent Barn.


TRACK REVIEW: Sean Nicholas Savage “Empire”

Sean Nicholas Savage


Few people can boast the creation of 11 studio albums by the time they’re 28.  Quebec’s own Sean Nicholas Savage, who will officially enter his late twenties at the end of the month (happy birthday Sean!), absolutely can.  What’s even more impressive than the sheer volume of Savage’s output is that he’s only been recording since 2008.  As a prolific staple in the Montreal indie scene, Savage has been represented by Arbutus Records (home to Grimes, Doldrums, and Blue Hawaii) for the last five years, and hasn’t wasted a moment since his initial signing with the label.  Following 2013’s Other Life LP, Savage releases Bermuda Waterfall on May 13th, and I suspect he’s already churning out new ballads for the next record.

“Empire” is the vulnerable core of Bermuda Waterfall.  A sorrowful track that bridges contemporary minimalism and eighties sentimentality, it is the kind of song that multiplies its infectiousness exponentially with each play.  Commencing with the twinkling chirp of keys, a patient but weighty bass line, and an unobtrusive snare beat, Sean’s clean voice chimes in with the darkly romantic phrase “We held each other in the empire of hate” that quickly comes to characterize the narrative.

His vocal style is one that is so familiar it’s impossible to recognize where you’ve heard its doppelgangers.  On the higher end of the audible spectrum, it glides between trembling, shrill, and soft with genuine ease.  This is a sensitive singing niche-one that could be butchered with cheesiness were it attempted by another artist.  That isn’t to say schmaltzy music hasn’t influenced the song; easy listening and corporate muzak rush to the mind’s forefront when hearing “Empire” for the first time.  It certainly has its roots in mid-80’s sap rock, but it subdues those elements to the most tasteful degree as opposed to satirizing them.  What could have been rendered ironic is instead painfully sincere, a quality that marks all of Savage’s music.  He writes as if meekly exposing a raw wound to a wolf pack, wincing and hoping for the best.

Isolation is another recurring feature in the annals of the artist’s recording history, and there is no shortage of it on this track. It is just too perfect that as he sings the line “Kissing myself, holding myself / As if you were, somebody else” he’s harmonizing with himself.  This kind of lyrical/formal continuity reflects the skill set of someone who’s been writing music as many years as Savage has been alive.  Likewise the thematic desolation of his words compliments the sparseness of the song’s composition beautifully. 

Savage is the kind of songwriter who has the ability to sate his listener while still inspiring a gluttonous hunger for more – kind of like watching butter settle into hot toast and spreading on three layers more, despite having plenty in the first place.  Given the combination of his talent, youth, and compulsive need to create, I expect to be slathering on much more of Sean Nicholas Savage in the near future.

Check out “Empire” below: