Dream pop

PREMIERE

TOLEDO - Bath

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Jordan Feinstein

“I take a bath and a bottle of addys” TOLDEO sings in their new single, “Bath.” The track is a dream-pop bath and bottle of adderall, suppressing its inner turmoil beneath mellow sounds and major chords, an aural approximation of the pill’s effect. Even though the singer has been medicated since nine years old for anger issues, he still doesn’t “find the peace of mind or the answers.” But he’s certainly figured out at least one way of coping, and like those warm baths, this song’s wash of sound might just be another.

REVIEW: Alexia Avina - Betting on an Island

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Raquel Dalarossa

Alexia Avina is a Montreal-based artist whose full-length debut, Betting on an Island, feels a bit like a mirage—at first, a cozy refuge from the stress of the everyday, but the more time you spend in it, the more it seems to feel like a sad settlement. The eight-track collection sees Avina’s signature dream pop come alive in high definition, without losing the ethereal softness that defines her music.

On Facebook, Avina writes, “These songs have been with me for the past 3 years, sometimes as a burden, other times as a source of relief and renewal.” Whatever the reason for the delay in releasing these tracks, the time invested in getting them just right feels obvious from the first listen. Compared to some of Avina’s earlier EPs, Kind Forest and Surrender, this feels like it's been dusted and polished. In the opening instrumental “I Don’t Want All Your Money,” it's as if a curtain has been pulled back to reveal an entire microcosm of textures and sounds that we can explore over and over again. Amid gently plucked strings and insect-like buzzing, Avina’s vocals seem to meander like some kind of ethereal creature.

Those vocals, layered and whimsical, often act as another instrument in her little orchestra, rather than as a verbal tool per se. But although the lyrics don’t immediately jump out at us, following them offers a striking counterpoint to the album’s serene and secure exterior. We get glimpses into a relationship that seems antagonistic; in the title track, Avina sings, “I wish I had a better knack / For letting it all slide off my back,” and as though sitting across the poker table from her partner and adversary, watches him “raise an island that I won’t match.” Despite the song’s gentle optimism, she is doubtful, tense, and defeated. One has to wonder: is the island they bet on a sanctuary, or exile?

Elsewhere we find more stark juxtapositions between the tranquil nature of the music and the conflict unfolding beneath the surface. Avina seems to float from a resigned, defeatist attitude (“It may hurt a little but not enough / And I knew it would” on “Glove”), to a more confrontational stance. Closing track “Don’t U Give” is her most defiant, and it’s also one in which the sonic characteristics finally rise to match the words, with moody electric guitar and percussion galvanizing the emotion.

Avina’s parting words are the most interesting on the album: “Do you think I’m stupid? / I’m not all of the things I want to be / But now I’m not the only / The only one of us who can’t relax.” There’s no real sense of catharsis here, merely one of resentment. In a way, the album becomes an island in and of itself by the time it’s through, holding all of Avina’s isolated feelings and her inability to escape.