5 ON THE FLY Five mini reviews exclusively from Quebec.

Whitney K – When The Party’s Over

Whitney K seems to have his tongue firmly in cheek as twangs his way through a collection of stripped-down alt country. Or maybe he doesn’t. Either way this is an enjoyable wander through steel guitar country blues, gothic folk, and cow-garage. The dude likes to get experimental too, as in the album’s closer “635 Hastings Street” with its swirl of snatched vocals and the opener with its hesitant screeching and scratching.

Prime cut: “Ça Va Être Une Fête”

Who Are You – Moonlight

Who Are You favour songs with humble beginnings that eventually rise to more dramatic heights, such as in “Such a Mess” that burbles through some strange electronics before bursting into a chorus of high-energy vocals. Sometimes the songs evolve into lively indie, such as “Fair Warning”, while songs like “Save my soul” evokes a more ’80s pop style.

One exception to the format would be the slinky “Coming to me” (sung in French, despite the song title), which creates a great eerie vibe, highlighted by some masterful backing vocals.

Prime cut: “Swim and Play”

Mort Rose – Avoir 20 ans

If you can imagine some french punks singing lounge music on Ed Sullivan in a sugar-coated alternate universe, then you have some idea of what Mort Rose sound like on ‘Avoir 20 ans’. Although “Mots d’amour” harks back to ’50s rock’n’roll, the rest are sung with the unabashed “ooo-ooo” of kissy pop. The solemnly slow “MIAMI” gets blown up to glam rock proportions, while “La femme flamme” actually evokes Motown.

Prime cut: “La femme flamme”

Vanille – My grandfather thinks I’m going to hell

On ‘My grandfather thinks I’m going to hell’ Vanille comprises a trio, with Vincent Huard-Tremblay and Victor Tremblay-Desrosiers providing garage-rock style support to Rachel Leblanc’s folk-pop songs. It’s an interesting choice, given that you can imagine Leblanc’s off-beat works being set to more avant instrumentation. But the down-home cosiness works, as we are drawn in by the rousing indie rock of “Phonème”, for instance, and are rewarded with lovely floating vocals (and the occasional spurt of bright synths). Similarly, we are treated to rather cute, melodic singing amid the rumbling rock of “Tangerine”. More experimental instrumentation could be interesting, but that would only remove us that much furhter away from Leblanc’s engaging voice.

Prime cut: “Phonème”

Pierre Kwenders – MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time

Pierre Kwenders plays breezy, colourful contemporary World soul, with a few nods to hip-hop. His music is also magically imbued with the rhythms and vibes of Africa and parts further east. So you get the sultry R&B number “Makanda” (featuring assistance from Palaceer Lazaro & SassyBlack with West African resonance in the guitars, and exotic chimes in Asian-sounding “Zonga” (beautifully backed by the voice of Tanyaradzwa).

Kwender is a purveyor of colourful, global beats and he also likes things a little close to the edge. “Wood of Solitude”, as an example, devolves from a hip-hop middle part to more chanted vocals that eventually get eaten by the increasingly distorted music.

All in all, a masterful release.

Prime cut: “Makanda”