Julie Doiron is a French-Canadian singer/songwriter based out of New Brunswick who has been breaking hearts since her early twenties. With bare-bones guitar work, sparing arrangements, and a relentlessly devastating take on her perpetuating lovelorn dilemmas, she delivers haunting, featherweight melody with utmost vulnerability, sincerity, and conviction. Inside her small frame lives one of the most gorgeous and disarming voices to ever grace this genre, perfectly and effortlessly delivering her sad lullaby.
Her fragility and despondence were perfectly laid to rest in the form of two amazing albums, with songs that flawlessly embody heartache and longing – these are 2001’s francophone “Désormais” and the 2002 English-speaking resolution “Heart and Crime”. Her catalog chronology stretches far in either direction, but none compare to these works, which remain poised as the centerfold of her artistry.
Favourite track: Too Much (http://www.epitonic.com/artists/julie-doiron/#/artists/julie-doiron/)… Scroll down, click, and just let it all out.
Gas is one of the more well-known musical incarnations of German producer Wolfgang Voigt, who successfully oversaw the shotgun marriage of 4-on-the-floor techno with ethereal ambiance. He captured the essence of being hopelessly lost in the deep dark woods, with nothing but the sounds of nature reverberating and ricocheting amongst the wind and trees, and the ominous droning pulse of a frantic heartbeat pounding in the ears. Gas’ music flows effortlessly like fog, cold and relentless as a glacier runoff, with the unpredictability of a coastal squall. Somewhere within this essence one can perceive buried melodies and refrains, but they remain endlessly entangled and muffled in the briar of his sonic forest.
Between 1995 and 2000, Gas released 2 EPs and 4 LPs, most of which contain untitled songs and nothing but an art overlay of “G A S” to indicate authorship. I believe his best works are “Pop” and “Königsforst”, the latter being named after the forest in which he grew up and cites as the main influence for this project.
Favourte track: [Königsforst 4] (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukQYYJJwVJI)… Get lost.
Because of his humility and respect for the artistic integrity of his peers, the identity of previously-enigmatic Burial was self-revealed, but I prefer to discuss him as a musical apparition, shrouded in mystery as he originally was. Burial has created some of the most haunting, razor-sharp, and altogether organic sounding electronic music I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. His soundscapes are the notational equivalent of an endless dark corridor, flickering lanterns overhead swinging and creaking in a cold stale breeze, with a thick wet fog obscuring your view of which, upon straining, could be a looming figure up ahead. With unprecedented attention to the most minute detail, Burial meticulously combines metallic *chik* and *click* based beats in unmistakably unique patterns, other-worldly dark toned synths, and unintelligible samples of fragmented words and phrases, all drenched in the crackle of what resembles reverberations of popping vinyl fuzz.
Since 2006, Burial has released over 4 hours of material, some of which represents what I consider to be amongst the frontier of cutting-edge music. Pictured above are his 2 critically-acclaimed LPs “Burial” and “Untrue” (the latter being my favourite of his), a small portion of his exceptional body of work. More recently, he has taken to a an trudging, ambient mood, with excellent EPs “Traunt / Sleeper”, “Moth / Wolf Cub” (a split with like-minded Four Tet), “Four Walls / Paradise Circus” with Massive Attack, “Kindred”, and many more. Update: Burial strikes again! Today he unleashed a new EP entitled “Rival Dealer” with 3 killer, passionate tunes that represent a masterful sidestep from his usual modus op.
Favourite Track: Archangel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlEkvbRmfrA)… Takedown.
Girls were a San Fransisco-based surf rock duo comprised of singer/guitarist Christopher Owens and bassist JR White during 2007-2012. Owens is a survivor of the “Children of God” religious cult, which as I understand it was a pretty messed-up crowd. Banned from listening to music, he relied on movies to provide his gateway to melody and songwriting until the age of 16 when he finally defected. Taking years to acclimatize to the mainstream world, Owens bounced back from the ashes of this less-than-optimal childhood to become an outstanding musician and performer. Meeting future band mate White in his late 20s, they moved in together and reportedly knocked down the dividing wall between their bedrooms so they could hang out and write music without hindrance. With an obsession of the old-timey classics, Girls create punchy tunes with walking bass lines, addictive guitar solos, doo-wop influenced melodies and unabashed sing-songy lyrics about getting high, chasing (you guessed it!) girls, fleeting friends, and striving to be bad-ass. They all look the part too, with long flowing hair, ripped jeans, and a carefree perma-fried expression worn at all times.
During their 5 year run, Girls produced 3 excellent releases, “Album”, “Broken Dreams Club” EP, and “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”. The vast majority of their material is immediately enjoyable, endlessly playable, and perfectly suited for pretty much any stereotypical summer-related event. Tired of the ever-rotating slew of back-up/touring musicians, Owens decided to carry on solo, since releasing his debut album “Lysandre” which features 5 or 6 solid songs. If you haven’t heard “Album” yet, give it a shot – you’ll be hanging 10 in no time.
Favourite track: Laura (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM9FSeCLGPg)… One of like 5 songs named after some sweet thing who broke his sweet little heart.
Do Make Say Think are a Toronto-based instrumental post-rock collective of 10+ rotating musicians who have been around since the mid 90s. Fronted by guitarist Ohad Benchetrit, they are seasoned veterans of orchestrating jazzy, dynamic and multi-layered masterpieces, often featuring a unique blend of distorted rock and wind / horn accompaniment. Integral to their sound is the meticulous detail each and every musician dedicates to ensure their section is gripping and memorable; this is especially notable in the bass and drum lines, often the song’s captivating feature (i.e. “Frederica” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jAA1ly0eLk). Never one to get lost in the musical mire of overkill, Do Make Say Think always create solid, catchy foundations to be accentuated and decorated with tastefully-placed instrumentation. From pindrop-silent acoustic guitar to crashing 10-instrument crescendos, their musicianship is rock-steady.
Starting with their genre-defining self-titled debut in 1998, Do Make Say Think have never looked back, since pumping out 5 more LPs (with a new one reportedly in the making). Pictured above are my 2 besties, 2000’s “Goodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord Is Dead” and the greatest instrumental album I’ve ever heard, 2003’s “Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn”.
Favourite track: Horray! Horray! Horray! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW14MgCVg9w)… “Think we should play it again?” – Yes, yes I do.
Washed Out is a chillwave band fronted by Georgia, USA-based Ernest Greene since 2009. Largely credited to be the inventor of the genre, Washed Out remains a prolific factory for quality, grooving indie tunes. They generate the sounds of summer crushes, first kisses, late nights, sneaking out, and hot tears collecting under your neck. With remarkable consistency, Greene creates anthems of vocal harmony, stripped-down drum samples, windswept loops, and sultry synth lines all filtered through a blanket of dreamy haze. Starting as a solo bedroom computer project, Greene has since adopted more of a full-band approach to songwriting and performance, making for a robust, dynamic and well-rounded sound.
Over the last 4 years, Washed Out has released 2 stellar break-out EPs, 2009’s “High Times” and 2010’s “Life of Leisure”; he then signed to Sub Pop and delivered 2 solid LPs with 2011’s “Within and Without” and this year’s amazing “Paracosm”. Nearly every track would provide for a good starting point, but I’m particularly fond of his early works like “Belong” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jv2ZWQqyX8w) and “New Theory” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v00RQms9QiM). Being friends with other similar artists like Toro y Moi and Small Black, you can also find various remixes and remakes of each other’s works by typing combinations of their names into YouTube. Lots of goodies to be found.
Favourite track: Weightless (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WN67JHwFF_A)… Hurts so good.
[Aaaand while we’re at it, this song rules too: “You and I” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTQncC7LoFQ)… featuring the talented Caroline Polachek of Chairlift]
Le Loup (French for “The Wolf”) were an indie-folk group from Washington DC fronted by Sam Simkoff throughout 2006-2011. Just like their namesake, they appeared out of nowhere, graced us with their beauty and elegance, then disappeared again forever into the great beyond. Fortunately for us, what’s left as evidence of their presence are two gorgeous LPs (rather than the headless bloodied corpse of a jackrabbit or something). Featuring full-bodied orchestration, layers of vocal harmony, uplifting messages, and friggen banjos and tympanis and stuff, Le Loup gently guide you by the hand through the moss-covered forest of their sound.
Check out their amazing 2009 finale album “Family”, and it’s noteworthy kid sibling “The Throne Of The Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly”. You’ll find yourself marching to the beat of the drum all the way to the jaws of the wolf.
Favourite track: “Morning Song” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlT4up8-m-k)… One gingerly-footed frolic at a time.
Boards of Canada are, interestingly, a Scottish (i.e. not Canadian) electronic duo comprised of brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin. Having origins dating back to the early 90s, these guys were waaay ahead of their time in innovation, style, and esthetic. Being troglodytes regarding all things electronic, they are die-hard analog equipment devotees, giving rise to their classic and immediately-recognizable sound. With warm drones, seasick spinning tremolo, incredibly catchy and unmistakable beats, their ultimate hallmark are vocal samples stolen from archival nature videos, public awareness announcements, and random statements of numbers / colours.
I was introduced to Boards of Canada in my early teens by an idolized cousin 10 years my senior. Driving in his old Honda through the snow in wintertime, I distinctly remember listening to the sonic whirlwind of “Geogaddi” fly around us in a vertigo-inducing trance, thinking he was insane to even refer to this garbage as “music”. Regardless, I attained a copy the cd because I wanted to be cool and show off my yet-to-become-esoteric music taste. Months later I decided to give them another go, and became obsessed with the 38-second interlude “Beware The Friendly Stranger” (http://youtu.be/MYdE5qnS0qQ), listening to it over and over again. Eventually I became sufficiently brainwashed to stop incessantly pressing ◅◅ and just let the album play. Hit ▻▻ and now we’re here.
Since 1995, Board of Canada have released a plethora of music, some of which represents the most important and genre-defining art of their era. 1998 LP “Music Has The Right To Children” has rightfully received overwhelming critical acclaim (including many perfect scores), with the aforementioned 2002 follow-up “Geogaddi” following close behind. Other highlights include 2006 EP “Trans Canada Highway”, 2005 LP “The Campfire Headphase”, and this year’s post-6-year hiatus comeback “Tomorrow’s Harvest”. You’d be hard pressed to find a modern electronic artist who wouldn’t give a shout out to at least one of those.
Favourite Track: Sunshine Recorder (http://youtu.be/1anzh73fm54)… never have the words “a beautiful place” been so eerie and unsettling.