It’s been a great year already for the city of Montreal. Suuns + Jerusalem In My Heart collaborated on a stunning , multi-faceted album. Milk & Bone stirred our emotions with Little Mourning. Daniel Isaiah returned with an introspective and honest record, Come Into Gone. Young artists Maybelleen, The Muscadettes, and Afrakite excited us with new singles. And Patrick Watson made a triumphant return with his best album in a decade.
The next edition to the Montreal musicology of 2015 is I Become A Shade from the mysterious Seoul. While the band keeps a low profile, their new album may force them to show a little bit more of themselves. With an electro-, dream-pop sound, I Become A Shade is startling and infectious. It is smooth and groovy at times while brooding and even romantic. But lying underneath the stunning sound is a feeling of isolation and separation, of long journeys traveled filled with highs and lows of life. This evidenced by the meandering feel of the album, where Seoul rotate pulsating, rhythmic songs with quiet interludes or lo-fi, scratchy tracks.
The more sullen song are are highly introspective and contemplative; songs that question why certain events happened (“Thought You Were”) or moments where we yearn for something that once was (“Carrying Home Food in the Winter”). The driving, more uptempo songs are where the band’s talents really shine through, though. Building on their electronic and production foundations, Seoul creates some spectacular and gorgeous dream-pop. “I Negate” epitomizes the sentiments that resonate across the album of loneliness and grief. With a lush sound, the trio repeatedly asks, “Don’t you want to?”, to someone on the other side, but the question goes unanswered. The rhythmic and pulsating singles, “The Line” and the steamy “White Morning”, attempt to seek something positive but only to realize that not much has changed.
“Real June” and “Stay With Us” are changes of pace. They are cool, summery pop songs made for a drive along the coast with the top down. And like the sound, the songs are among the most optimistic on the album, where the trio find positive memories to reflect upon.
Although the album is filled with some excellent tracks, two songs truly stand out. The stunning and spectacular “Haunt / A Light” showcases Seoul’s multiple talents. From the sublime pace to the terrific harmonies to the self-doubt and self-reflection in the lyrics, the song mesmerizes. Likewise, “Silencer” is startling for its driving, momentum-building tempo. It also shows a different side of the band, using tempo and melodies to generate a feeling of escapism and anticipation at the same time. It’s the one song that truly reaches a peak.
With I Become A Shade, Seoul have created something that is sensual and crushing. At times, it feels like hitting the bottom of the ocean as oppose to reaching the summit of a mountain, but it’s a journey that you will want to take with this rising Montreal band.
Seoul are Julian Flavin, Dexter Garcia, and Nigel Ward. I Become a Shade is out via Grand Jury and Last Gang Records. Get it at the Grand Jury’s store, Last Gang’s online boutique, iTunes, and Amazon.
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