Monday, November 5, 2012

Modern Superstitions Burns Indie Pop

Unless you're readily taking in the Toronto music scene, you may not have heard of Modern Superstitions. Their best-known EP, All The Things We've Been Told, was heralded by a few and readily dismissed by others as promising but also forced and sometimes contrived. That was more than two years ago.

I heard something different back then and I do today too. Spurred on by the vocal punch of Nyssa Rosaleen, Modern Superstitions is a band that has everything going for it. All they really needed then was a little direction to lock in their one-off offering. It seems they have more of it today, with the help of Brian Borcherdt and Ben Cook.

Modern Superstitions releases a mostly knock-out weirdo indie rock-pop album. 

The self-titled album isn't perfect by a long shot, but there is every reason to give it a listen. Several tracks stand out as vigorous infusions of pop, rock and punk. Their label describes it as an ambitious blending of the melodic invention of White Stripes and vigor of the Velvet Underground.

As with the EP, the power behind the self-titled LP is Rosaleen. She's a singer whose voice you'll want to listen to with a particular earnest. She roars along through the best songs, giving the indie pop sound an uncharacteristic girth but never really losing her vulnerability.

The rest of the band has matured as musicians too. The slightly changed lineup now includes Matthew Aldred (guitar), Benjamin Reinhartz (drums), and Patrick McCormack (bass). Originally it began as a trio, three childhood pals who wanted to create a different sound. They still do, only much tougher.

Of course, this newfound toughness isn't as much an evolution as material selection. School Days, for instance, has been a staple at live performances for the better part of two years and released as part of their 7-inch reintroduction in May (along with the more tender and subdued B-side Way I Want). No matter. School Days sounds as fresh as anything else on the album.

School Days is also one of their finer crafted compositions, but its energetic opener, Last Night's Dress, feels a bit more indicative of the band's direction. The track, an upbeat number about the ups and downs of heartbreaks and rebounds, delivers on the intensity when they sound their best. Easily one of the most memorable, it falls somewhere between a dreamer's desperation and the relentlessness of hope.

Black Moon is underpinned by the band's frequent nods to several shades of the sixties. In this case, it opens with a driving rhythm section, occasionally broken up by dreamy doo-wop interruptions and a few psychedelic twists. While risky in its complexity, the free-spirited swagger and tempo changes makes it work as an unpredictable and addictive original.

Other highlights from the 10-track LP include the smoothly spaced out Let It Melt, the weight and heaviness of String To The Song, and surprising contrast to the radio-safe indie rock and broody, bluesy sections of Hometown Radio. The mellower and melodic tracks like Bandits, Way I Want, and Bad Habit demonstrate the band's diversity but lag a bit behind their urgent angels. Sure, Rosaleen can deliver a smoky sweetness but her fiery side is more impassioned.

Modern Superstitions Fires Up 4.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Sticking with the more dynamic and driving tracks off the new self-titiled LP will likely make the Modern Superstitions much more listenable over the long term. Last Night's Dress, Black Moon, String To The Song, and Let It Melt would make a good sampler, with Last Night's Dress and Black Moon being the must-have duo.

The rest will depend heavily on individual tastes. But if there is one thing I have learned about Modern Superstitions is that two tracks will very quickly lead to a few more. While not everything they do sounds incredibly original, all of it is original in the way it comes together. You'll always want more.

You can find Modern Superstitions' self-titled LP on Amazon. You can also download the album on iTunes. Keep up to date with the band on Facebook. The band reboot of sorts, with a self-titled LP after three EPs in three years, is the right reintroduction for a maturing band that has straddled the fence between footnote and success for too long. Give them a listen, especially for Rosaleen's vocal strength.
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