June, apparently, is a time for transformations: Cloud Nothings and Wavves emerge as a great songwriting team, The Weeknd emerges as both Apple poster boy and Michael Jackson reincarnate, and Veruca Salt just plain reemerge. In that spirit, here are the 10 best (most emergent?) songs we heard all month:
The Weeknd has come a long way from his days existing only as mysterious streams and shadowy .jpegs. Now he's the kind of singer to not only show his face in public, but at a freaking Apple launch. That's where he premiered "Can't Feel My Face," which takes the Michael Jackson influence that has always been lurking beneath all the drugs and sex and grit and pushes it right to the forefront.
Toronto pop eccentrics Weaves craft contagious ditties with astonishing consistency. They are the Ty Cobb of Canadian pop [and by that, we don't mean abusive, racist assholes]. Their batting average is remarkable — maybe untouchable. On "Tick," vocalist Jasmyn Burke plays the straight woman, earnest and confessional, to the guitar's trickster act: all stuck out tongue and raspberries and nah-nah-nah-nah-nahs.
The Chicagoan '90s alt act Veruca Salt hasn't released a record with its original members in 18 years, and somehow the spacey verse they've crafted on this outing feels timeless, like it could have been snatched from any of the last three or four decades. They've returned, it seems, as a more intimate, mature pop songwriting team.
At last summer's Supercrawl, we pointed to Jessy Lanza as one possible musical future for Hamilton, Ontario. In the meantime, though, she's still the secret weapon of global electronic music. Her latest offering is a collaboration with her Hyperdub labelmates DJ Spinn and Taso. But they bend to her, rather than vice versa.
Toronto-based folk group Beams deliver a by-the-book — which, in this case, is to say excellent — cover of the 1985 Kate Bush classic "Running Up That Hill." Befitting their rootsier sensibilities, Beams trade the synths and sequencers for guitars and drum kits and other percussion, but it's otherwise a careful, loving, and high-fidelity rendition.
Few people are weirding popular music as artfully or as thoroughly as Arca. "Vanity" straps his freeform, elegant minimalism with demolition charges — the kind of thing that might score the end days about as well as a weird night at the afterhours.
Over swelling synth pads and glitchy electronic noise that rolls like the tide, Owen Pallett soars, shoots high into the falsetto register, then gracefully swoops down low to coo just above the breakers.
Calgarian punks Hag Face (who we've been routing for) take a full-throttle joyride through at least half of the circles of hell. Noisy, vicious, unrelenting — I think you better do what the blonde miscreants of Hag Face tell ya. That way, no one gets hurt.
We were aware a collaboration between Wavves' Nathan Williams and Cloud Nothings' Dylan Baldi was in the works, but yesterday, the whole thing fell fully-formed out of the sky along with a stream of its title track. Produced by Sweet Valley (Williams and his brother Joel), "No Life For Me" nicely finds the average between the two bands: Baldi is the straight man — earnest, introspective — to Williams' brat.
Gadda is a hard artist to encapsulate. The Toronto-based singer's Bronze EP is the first installment of a trilogy that he created in his studio-bedroom out of his parents' home in Brampton which he calls "The Skydome." His eclectic debut EP is a dark, floaty, yet life-assuring journey of indie folk and downtempo R&B with a chilling concept about the future of humanity.