Isaac Vallentin

REVIEW: Isaac Vallentin - Amateur

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Will Shenton

There's a timelessness to Isaac Vallentin's new LP, Amateur, that gives its melodies, narratives, and vignettes a sense of hard-to-place familiarity. At times this is because it draws from recognizable influences, but largely it's a result of Vallentin's own stylistic touches. From the psudeo-'70s aesthetic of "Loudest In The Universe" to the more modern folk-rock of a song like "Carol," each is replete with intricacies that give a new impression on every listen.

Vallentin's distinctive baritone and knack for folksy storytelling are occasionally reminiscent of fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Andy Shauf ("Flying Pigeon" would feel right at home on The Bearer of Bad News). But Vallentin's eclectic background seems to imply greater depth to his artistic goals. How does one go from the minimal, experimental synths of 2015's Hedera to the rich, cozy folk-pop of Amateur without some sort of intricate conceptual map?

Maybe it's because he lists "anti-folk" among his genre tags on Bandcamp, but it's hard not to hear a hint of parody in Vallentin's occasionally over-the-top sincerity. "They said you shouldn’t be a dancer / You’ll be eaten by the dog," he sings on the penultimate track. "I wish I’d gone to college / And forgotten dreams of dancing / As the dog is lacking appetite / For those holding accreditation." It's an invitation to laugh, and it's unclear whether this is just Vallentin letting his sense of humor shine through or whether it's meant to be a broader dig at the tropes of sad-sack narrative folk.

Regardless, Amateur's only obvious irony comes in the form of its title. Vallentin is clearly an accomplished songwriter, and each layer of instrumentation feels effortlessly refined. Lush but never overwrought (except perhaps where it wants to be), this album is truly a joy to listen to, as it must have been to create.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Isaac Vallentin (and Trails) - Loudest in the Universe

Will Shenton

At first glance, the understated folk of Canadian art-pop musician Isaac Vallentin's "Loudest in the Universe" might seem better-trod territory than his usual brand of inventive, experimental synths. But with the interplay of Trails' wistful croon and Vallentin's own resonant baritone, the restrained bandstand setup, and the short but captivating songwriting itself, it's clear that this track is rife with his creative touches.

The second single from his forthcoming LP, Amateur, "Loudest in the Universe" is an achingly beautiful entreaty—seemingly to humanity itself—to calm our innermost fears and conflicts. Avoiding the saccharine pitfalls common to that sort of theme, Vallentin couches the lyrics in the intimate language of love songs: Trails' voice soars into the first cloud-parting chorus, "I love you / Stop crying / There's nothing to fear about dying / Everything is all that you are and ever will be."

The latter half of the song takes on a bleaker tone, and the second chorus seems to reprimand the listener ("Good riddance / Be silent / There's nothing inside you but violence"), but concludes with an offer of forgiveness ("Everything that you're fighting is a part of you and a part of me / But I love you babe / So stop crying for a second"). Coupled with the neutral expressions of Vallentin, Trails, and drummer Pascal Delaquis throughout, the resulting tone is thoroughly unique. At once eminently familiar and just a touch alien in its delivery, "Loudest in the Universe" is a song that will haunt you long after its two-minute runtime.