Trapline by Snotty Nose Rez Kids
I’m breathing heavy, I love it.
My palms are sweaty, I love it.
My culture’s alive, I love it.
The art is revived, I love it.
The Haisla Nation rap duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids has just released its third full-length album. I love it.
The title Trapline is a pun: trap hip-hop beats and a strip of hunting land. Lead track Rebirth features the guest appearance of throat-singer Tanya Tagaq and references the current Indigenous artistic renaissance. The cuts are moody and banging. And if no one’s giving emcees Yung Trybez and Young D the Griffin Poetry Prize, the rhyme of “uterus” with “champion sound from the few us” on Son of a Matriarch will shock Hallmark’s Mothers Day division.
The victory of Traplines is its defiance and swagger. Creator Made an Animal addresses the colonial stereotype of Indigenous people as something less than human: “I got savage on my chest like supreme, savage DNA in my genes … I’ma be alright with my team.” Heroes range from Geronimo and Crazy Horse to single mothers and to rap icons. “That’s word to Ojibwe, humble with a little bit of Kanye.”
On Lost Tribe, the subject of cultural appropriation is not so gently broached: “I hate to burst your little bubby, baby, but Halloween is the only time you wanna be me.” The song is about a people forced to be outsiders on their land. Traplines feels like a chest-out reclaiming.
Dedicated by Carly Rae Jepsen
She’s underrated so much that she’s overrated. Dedicated, the perfectly fine fourth pop record from the curious British Columbian Carly Rae Jepsen, has critics stumbling over themselves in praise of a small-voiced singer with three times as many names as hits. She’s the “beloved underdog" and the “micro pop star.” One white-male-dad critic told me his kids thought Dedicated had great beats and songs they could dance to. Has anyone alerted American Bandstand? For sure, lead track Julien is a great breathy disco-ball of aerobic joy. Feels Right feels like the best Pointer Sisters. Right Words Wrong Time could be a song of the summer as long as it doesn’t get too hot. Elsewhere, this polished product from Jepsen and her full limousines of producers is full of fun, modern dance-pop, with moments of camp (Everything He Needs and I’ll Be Your Girl), but nothing all that catchy. To some, the lack of hit songs is virtuous. Maybe that makes Jepsen a game changer. Or maybe it just makes her an unsuccessful pop star.
Release by Rich Aucoin
Conspiracy theorists will go on about the supposed synchronicity of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It’s rubbish, of course. But it probably sparked an idea in the kaleidoscopic mind of Rich Aucoin, the Halifax indie-pop believer whose idea it was to strategically edit his magical new album Release to line up to the scenes of the 1951 film version of Alice in Wonderland, the Lewis Carroll story about the rabbit holes of the mind. The song titles read like chapters of a psychedelic journey of self-discovery: The Base, The Dream, The Middle, The Other, The Change, The Self, The Past, The Fear, The Mind, The Time, Release. The music sounds dreamy, French and danceable – a discotheque affair of Daft Punk and Arcade Fire. Bass lines are thick and limber. Lyrics lean to existential: “Are we really alone?” Aucoin asks on The Other. Something to ponder, from a poptimist who I bet believes as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
Deluxe Hotel Room by Lucette
When the velvet-voiced Lucette asks on her sophomore album whether there is someone who will help her get out of the rain, the sounds you hear are a thousand umbrellas opening in unison. Who would deny the sultry, wet singer in need? Lucette is the professional name of Lauren Gillis, an Albertan who introduced herself in 2014 with her debut album Black Is the Color and the suicide-story single Bobby Reid. Five years later, Lucette is back with Deluxe Hotel Room, a gorgeously downbeat record produced by her mentor Sturgill Simpson. The song Out of The Rain is the best thing Norah Jones hasn’t written in years. Other songs are woozy and half lit – John Prine, Lana Del Rey and Patsy Cline on the cosmic jukebox. “Tell me what it feels like to daydream away,” Lucette oozes, “layin’ by the seaside on an endless summer day.” Sounds like she doesn’t need anyone to tell her how that feels. She knows.
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