MORE THAN JUST THE PONIES
In the year 2014, the only thing that moves faster than our current rate of quick-click musical omnivorism is our eagerness to regurgitate what we’ve already digested. Nostalgia is the natural, kneejerk reaction to a present that feels so accelerated and uncertain; no one’s buying new music anymore, but you’ll still gladly shell out $100 to see an artist perform their most popular album front-to-back in its original order to mark the 20th 15th 10th anniversary of its release. Congratulations: you just turned your favourite singer—that life-changing creative force who soundtracked your adolescence and whose music helped you through your darkest hours—into a preprogrammed jukebox. Just feed it a coin, press play, and repeat.
It’s been 10 years since k-os’ sophomore release, Joyful Rebellion, transformed Toronto’s most versatile MC/singer/guitarist/song-and-dance-man into a cross-generational, Juno Awards-crashing phenomenon, thanks to a string of ubiquitous, genre-agnostic hit singles—the garage-gritty reggae of “Crucial,” the Thriller-worthy funk of “The Man I Used to Be,” the scat-jazz bounce of “Crabbuckit”—that took up permanent residency on pop, urban, and alternative-rock radio playlists across Canada. But for the artist born Kheaven Brereton, that moment may as well have been 10,000 years ago, when you consider the dramatic album-to-album evolution he’s undergone since. If rap initially emerged in the late 1970s as a collage of disparate sources—pulling in street poetry, chopped-up classic-rock riffs, manually looped James Brown breaks, and primitive electronics—k-os has spent the past decade trying to explode that idea of hip-hop into infinite new possibilities, applying the same collagist approach with a different set of materials on each record. For a restlessly experimental artist like him, there are no such things as career milestones. There are only springboards for the next leap into the unknown.
In Felix Cartal’s hometown of Vancouver, the iconic steam clock is a well-known landmark. Every quarter hour it whistles its chimes, accompanied by clouds of vapour. A model of ingenuity and proverbially reliable. Attributes you can pin on Felix himself.
Felix has racked up a string of hits, and won a JUNO Award in his native Canada in 2020, with his club-ready dance tracks and expansive electronic pop. His fourth album – Expensive Sounds For Nice People – finds the DJ, producer and songwriter displaying the duality at his music’s core. The Life, featuring Québécois duo Fjord, bounces along on a sunshine vibe and grin-inducing breakdown. But analyse the lyrics – I used to believe that life was just a breeze/But the highs and low set me free’ – and you realise things aren’t as they seem… in this case, a commentary on social media’s superficiality.
Folk-tinged, dance-pop anthem, Mine – co-written with LA-born singer Sophie Simmons – is one of two singles on the album to have gone platinum in Canada. The other, Love Me – with fellow Canadian, Lights – won a JUNO for Best Dance Recording in 2020. Ironically, the two mutual fans had met at an earlier JUNO awards. Elsewhere, Felix’s ability with vocal chops lends Going Up a distinctly Discovery-era Daft Punk vibe.
This album, Felix says, is like a compendium of short stories. “There are emotional songs, but it’s more carefree.” Expensive Sounds For Nice People, you’ll find, sheds its secrets and wisdom over multiple plays.