New Music Review: Adaline – Modern Romantics [Guest Post]

[Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very excited to introduce you to the very talented Tyler Morgenstern.  He is guest posting a brand new album review from former-Vancouverite, Adaline called Modern Romantics.  This is the first guest post I’ve had on MoreThanAFeeling Music and couldn’t have asked for a better written review.  For more information on Tyler and what he’s all about, check out his details at the bottom of the post. Now, without further adieu..]

Modern Romantics, the latest effort of Ottawa-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Adaline (Shawna Beesley), is an album that stubbornly and gleefully refuses to stay put. Even in name, it is a collection anchored in the indulgent, rich, even gothic realm of romance, but obsessed with the glitchy electronics and shimmering production of today (and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow).

The follow-up to 2008’s Famous for Fire, Modern Romantics retains and elaborates upon the best qualities of Adaline’s earlier work—her stunning vocal takes (equal parts soaring and delicate), skillful composition, and earnest but still intricate and surprising lyrics—but, guided by the airtight production of Hawksley Workman, Tino Zolfo, and Marten Tromm, brings them together under a more singular stylistic rubric. The result is beautiful, energetic, sexy as heck, and a fantastic example of just how good pop music can be when it’s done right. Charting a path between the synth-heavy new wave revival so in vogue at the moment (think Austra’s Feel it Break) and the more disco- and soul-accented work of outfits such as Oh Land and Kimbra, Adaline‘s intimate stories of heartache, lust, and longing find a comfortable home in a sonic landscape populated by distorted guitars, swirling synths, and bombastic percussion.

Nowhere does this delicate balancing act work better than on album opener “That’s What You Do Best.” Part gypsy curse, part industrial anthem, and all swagger, the track is exemplary of Adaline‘s newly polished sound: that of a tender, earnest soul with a serious twist in its hips. We find Adaline in a similar mode on “Keep Me High,” a hazy, atmospheric morsel of baby-making goodness that pulls her inner femme fatale, in all of its breathy beauty, out of hiding. In a husky croon, she commands “you want my pale skin, love,” gently tracing with her voice the contours of lust the way you might, with your fingertips, trace the curve of a lover’s back.

Of course, as in any romance worthy of the name, we also find exciting moments of rupture when blurry outlines and traces of shadows give way to rough edges and raw nerves. “Silent Player,” “Lovers Collide,” and lead single “Wasted Time” burst out of contemplation with a fantastic sense of defiance, energized by bright hooks, hand claps, and stuttering percussion lines.

Those who follow Adaline, though, are no doubt aware that of the many exceptionally talented young female musicians working in Canada today, there is maybe none so adept at wrapping her voice around a ballad than Adaline. On “Cost Is Too High (Not to Love)” and long-time personal favorite “Heartache,” this tenderness is marvelously on display. The electronic veneer that glosses most of the album here retreats from direct view, allowing Adaline‘s classical sensibilities, kept afloat on a wonderfully strained chorus of strings, to offer our bruised hearts some comfort.

From beginning to end, Modern Romantics expertly navigates opposites. We find Adaline caught between swelling romance and searing disdain; at once indulging in new passions and lamenting the crushing weight of disappointment. In “Sparks,” she points out this ambivalence better than I can: “I could love you like a high school girl with age across my face.” But where some artists might lose themselves in such confusions, Adaline masters them. She turns tension and frustration into a beautifully accurate, finely detailed, and incredibly seductive portrait of how it feels to give oneself over to the tantalizing uncertainty of love.

Modern Romantics will be launched at The Biltmore on November 5, 2011 with a show featuring Adaline, Rococode, and In Medias Res. Doors open at 7:30, tickets $15 at the door. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

(Tyler Morgenstern is a freelance writer based in Vancouver. He writes many things, most of which are about politics. For that stuff, you can visit his blog, Man Descending.)

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~ by whet_hopped on October 28, 2011.

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