To the North is Lora Bidner’s first album, but she’s no stranger to the local music scene. The Ottawa native has performed at Ottawa Folkfest and Musik Ottawa, and collaborated with local musicians such as Raphael Weinroth-Browne of Flying Hörses and The Visit, who accompanies Bidner on the record. The album contains nine tracks, including a collaboration with JustJamaal ThePoet in “Ignite.”
The Carleton University music program graduate is clearly a multi-talented artist, who plays piano, guitar, ukulele, and synth on top of her vocals. The album, which was produced entirely in Ottawa, is an impressive feat for a solo singer-songwriter. While the songs vary slightly in speed and tone, each track flows seamlessly into the next. The more upbeat songs have the modern folk vibe of Young the Giant or Of Monsters and Men, but produce a more earthy sound caused by prominent strings. The distinct presence of violin adds to the haunting elements of many tracks.
What’s most impressive of the record is Bidner’s ability to manipulate her voice to perfectly suit not only her accompaniments, but also her lyrics and the general tone of each individual song. She has a soft, eerie voice, similar to Béatrice Martin’s of Coeur de Pirate. While the record is definitely emotive, her singing is calming and helps to create a highly intricate album that remains perfectly whole. Bidner’s seamless collection of tracks feels both emotional and uplifting, that is sure to give any listener a cathartic musical experience.
This Saturday night is an emotionally charged one for Cody Allen as he releases his latest album Igniteat Irene’s Pub. All week he’s appeared been promoting the album on Rogers Daytime, and bouncing between Ottawa and Montreal playing shows. The sound for Ignite is hard to pin down, with Allen’s voice somewhere between Silverchair’s Daniel Johns and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, with a little bit of Chris Daughtry. The album itself has six songs that range between indie-country and grungy folk, beginning strong with “Heart of a Lion”, a fast, foot-stomping single that you’ll be able to sing along with after only hearing it once, and others like “No Need to Worry” that somehow balances a heart-wrenching tune with a tempo you can still bob your head to.
Allen originally hails from North Bay and moved to Ottawa after a short hiatus from music.
“After my last record All Is Not Lost came out in 2011, I felt I hit a wall and contemplated taking an extended break from music,” Allen says. “I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did before, and at that time I was living in North Bay. Instead of giving up I decided to move to Ottawa to start fresh and see if I could make anything happen.”
But as Allen moved to Ottawa to pursue music here, his family suffered a terrible tragedy that made him pick music back up again as an outlet. “My grandmother passed in December 2012 and I finally wrote about the way she affected me and the impact she played on my life as a little boy and a young man,” he explains. “After her passing, I began writing from the heart again and I strongly believe she is one of the reasons why this album is being released. The lyrics are my most personal yet, and I’m very proud of each and every song.”
Allen notes that this album sounds different from his previous work, noting growing up and finding love changed his perspective on what to write about musically in addition to the loss of his grandmother.
“Lyrically my topics have definitely changed over the years,” he says, “Most of my previous songs were inspired by young love and heartache that came with it, in my early to mid-20s I was also writing about the road and my experiences as a traveling musician. I met my girlfriend in the summer of 2012, and she changed my life, I began to write songs about love and wanting to protect someone who I love dearly from harm and being there for her as much as I could.”
His earlier influences were ’90s grunge rock bands like Silverchair, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins while later and more recently his tastes have moved to groups like Mumford and Sons, the Strumbellas and Johnny Cash.
In 2012 he was fortunate enough to meet producer Steve Foley when Allen’s band won studio time with him as an Ottawa Rock Lottery prize. “We hit it off right away, and after recording with him I realized that he understood me and that I wanted to work with him again. I can’t thank him enough for his guidance and experience through the entire recording process.” Allen is quick to explain why and continues giving praise, “Steve is a perfectionist and a very talented producer; he made my job easy as he believed in my project and what I had envisioned. Steve played an important role on this album; not only did he produce it but he also played drums on the album, he really understood my vision and he made it happen.”
Ignite took almost a year to record, partly to do with the fact that Allen was working and touring as a musician while trying to balance the sessions. He doesn’t regret giving it that much time, however, and saw it more like having the patience to strive for perfection. “It gave me time to sit with the songs and work with them piece by piece, without the stress of a deadline.”
While he doesn’t forget to note the others that helped him with the album, he’s quick to mention their input was more session-based and less with collaboration. “Each musician played a vital role in the creation of the new record, but at the end of it all I really wanted this album to be a reflection of me, my growth and maturity as a songwriter,” he says. “As I evolve as an artist so have my musical influences. There are many musicians that have influenced my sound, and I am very proud of the style that they each inspired me to create on my own.” Ignite features members of Amos the Transparent helping with harmonies, Jeff Logan lending a hand on guitar, and Rob Toth, who has been playing bass with Allen since he came to Ottawa.
“Writing songs is a passion and seeing it flourish with a band is what makes this all worth it,” Allen says.
Make sure to check out Ignite in person this Saturday night at Irene’s, with Miss Polygamy opening at 9 p.m. You can follow Cody Allen on Facebook and Twitter, and stay tuned to his website to find out how you can download your own copy May 5th.