indie music

First Listen: Modern Romantics

Adaline's 'Modern Romantics' is due Nov. 1, 2011 on Light Organ Records. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

The first time I heard Shawna Beesley — known to most as Adaline — play “That’s What You Do Best” was at a piano recital at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver, B.C. The stage was covered in candles and in the center, a baby grand piano and a girl who just loved those black and white keys.

At that point, the song was a sultry, simple, flirtatious theme. I remember the way she introduced the song, laughing into the microphone, bantering playfully with her friends and audience. The song was bare and basic, living only on her deep, throaty vocals, accompanied by the classical twirl of its Spanish melody.

That’s What You Do Best

Now, it’s the lead off Adaline’s sophomore album, Modern Romantics. “That’s What You Do Best” is no longer the simple tune it once was — it’s been worked up to a multi-layered, driving, insane theme of passion, full of chaos and disorder, thrown about by the battered arms of lovers. Like the other songs on the album, there’s the same characteristic voice but it’s now surrounded by the textured and varied layers of skilled production and electronic elements — a sign of Adaline’s audio evoution.

Modern Romantics

The album due on Nov. 1 has been a long time coming since Adaline’s debut album, Famous For Fire, was released in 2008. Graduating from sweeping ballads to electrifying pop haunts, there’s almost a seasoned playfulness on Adaline’s latest effort that somehow wasn’t there before. But while the songs veer into a strange, unfamiliar, yet comfortable direction, Adaline’s lyrics are still very much the same voice listeners have grown to love.

“That’s what I think I was attracted to from the get-go: Somebody who can write a lyric – which again, I can’t stress enough — is just not common, y’know? People who have an elegance with language,” said Canadian quirk-rock artist Hawksley Workman who, along with Marten Tromm and Tino Zolfo, produced Modern Romantics in Toronto, Canada.

Adaline on the set of her new music video for "The Noise," directed by JP Poliquin at Pinewood Toronto Studios. (VANESSA HEINS PHOTO)

Sparks

While Adaline’s last album was very much a journey of sorts, her second album is broken down into different pieces of the same puzzle. Famous For Fire, as gorgeous as it was, couldn’t be fully appreciated in just one song. The 2008 release required a full end-to-end listening before the beauty in every detail shone through.

Modern Romantics, however, boasts more immediate satisfaction with each song carrying its own weight. The album definitely lends itself more easily to radio play and while some may critique that quality, it’s something highly sought after in a world full of disposible pop songs. With this latest offering, Adaline’s proven that she’s not just raw talent but that she can also harness that skill into mastering even the trickiest of pop formulas.

For a preview of Adaline’s Modern Romantics, visit her website at www.adalinemusic.com. Be sure to catch Adaline on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at the Biltmore where she’ll be hosting her Vancouver album release party for Modern Romantics. Tickets are $14.74 (includes service fees) and are available on Ticket Web. Trust me. You won’t want to miss this one.

Featured photo by Vanessa Heins; graphic design by Justin Broadbent.

Full Disclosure: I worked as an intern with Adaline for a brief time in 2009. Take this review with a grain of salt — I’m a bit biased since she’s one of my favourite Vancouver (now Toronto) artists.

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Playlist: Your smile’s on fire.

This mix started off as just whatever I had been listening to that week. But, like everything else in my life, it quickly became something more than that.

I know I sound extremely dramatic and overwhelming but that’s how I felt that week. Each song in this mix made me feel bigger than my body, to borrow words from John Mayer. There were a couple days where I drove home from school under a huge expanse of bright blue, feeling like I could’ve kept driving for miles and it wouldn’t have mattered to anyone else but me.

I wasn’t exactly happy or feeling perfect — but I knew I would be okay.

Xavia, Who Will Save Us?
February 2011.


1. The Submarines – “Xavia”
“Xavia, who will save us? / Your smile’s on fire / And still my hear won’t let you down.” I first heard this song on the Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist soundtrack and wish I’d heard the Submarines sooner. The song is adorable and cute but I think what I love about it are the lyrics. They make sense and yet, not quite.


2. Miike Snow – “Song For No One”
I heard this song at Lucy’s when I was having a post-break up relationship dissection with Alisa. The song’s jaunty guitar riff catches me off guard everytime, which is probably why I liked this song so much at first. I was too busy feeling down on myself and this song picked me up again.


3. The Strokes – “Under Cover of Darkness”
Finally! I’ve been waiting for new material from the Strokes for YEARS. And that’s not even an exaggeration. The song is funny partially because it’s so very Strokes-esque, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel like they’ve fallen short of all the expectations we had drawn up for them in their extended absence. Either way, Julian Casablancas will forever look like he needs a shower.


4. Felix Cartal – “Popular Music Intro”
Felix Cartal is the DJ name of Taelor Deitcher, a sort of Vancouver wunderkind. He’s my age and strangely enough, I used to take photos of his old band, Orange Orange. Now, he’s Felix Cartal, jetting around the world, hanging with Steve Aoki and whoever else is hot in the electronic music world. A girl I went to high school with is tight with him and mentioned him a couple times but I didn’t start listening to him ’til this month. I dig it. It’s rad. Proud that he’s from Vancouver.


5. Ratatat – “Bare Feast”
A classmate and I were talking about the crossover between indie and electronic bands, music that you can dance too without feeling like a top 40 fool. She suggested Ratatat as a band that even those who were into all the subtle nuances of electronic music could appreciate. A confession though. I wathced Eat, Pray, Love the same day I heard this song so in my mind, “Bare Feast” makes me feel like I’m riding a bicycle down a dirt path in Bali or something.


6. Caribou – “Odessa”
Another friend noticed that I was on a bit of an electronic music kick recently and offered up Caribou. I’m still slowly familiarizing myself with their album, Swim, but this track caught my ears. It has a bit of a dark, club feel to it but it’s not stagnant or morbid. It’s still very danceable and moves along nicely.


7. Trentemøller – “Miss You”
I don’t want to say too much about this song since it speaks for itself. Simple, peaceful, honest.


8. Rusko ft. Amber Coffman – “Hold On”
A friend was trying to explain what “dubstep” was and sent me this as a sample. I don’t know if this exactly fits into what dubstep usually is, but Amber Coffman’s voice makes this track so much more. Without her, I doubt I’d pay attention to the track at all. Sorry, Rusko.


9. Kings of Leon – “The End”
Pained vocals over a sparse bassline, clashing guitar riffs, the obvious title… this is a break up song, dudes. It hurts to listen to and yet, I can’t stop. It’s the song they play in the scene of the movie where they’re kissing passioantely and you know it’s the last time they’ll ever see each other. And then someone dies? Yeah, that’s usually how it goes.