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.
How many artists can you name that have dropped 50 records? Probably not too many, especially ones with the same quality and flavour as the highly anticipated Soul Spins, by talented local producer and two-time Ottawa Beat League champJeepz. Within the last 3 years, Jeepz has created a rich discography with Soul Spins adding a well-deserved celebratory vibe to this true milestone in his career. Sharing the album’s stage with 25 artists from Canada and beyond, there’s plenty of familiar and fresh voices to hear on the soulful tracks found on Soul Spins, with plenty of love for the frozen tundra’s hip-hop scene. It’s a difficult task trying to express the ideas of an album with such magnitude and diversity. So I’ve created a list, breaking down the first 3 of 17 tracks and stating my initial thoughts when going into the record for the first time.
Proem [Ft. Just Jamaal the Poet]
A classic scratch followed by a sampled interview question layered over a vintage jazz piano introduces Jamaal’s strong lyrical flow. The heavy bassline and kick keep the vibe going while the Poet speaks of motivation and how the mind sets it’s own obstacles to overcome. Proem has the perfect tone to start up the album, demonstrating Jeepz signature ‘vintage-meets-modern’ sound.
Blu Moon [Ft. Blu]
An eerie siren contrasts with a sexy 70s funk sample found in the background like a Tarantino film. As the siren fades, a crisp boom-bap drum jumps through the smooth guitar riff and saxophone ballad, which really brings Blu Moon to a sort of KRS-One level. Blu’s vocals have a smooth yet aggressive style, that blend well with the instrumentals, but still have enough bite to stand alone.
My personal favorite on the record, Check the Resumé comes swinging with a solid upright bass in a House of Pain styling. As a 3-Osc buzzes discreetly through the atmosphere of the track, Grand, Hyf, and Raul drop some solid bars overtop of the hard-hitting and classic Soul Searchers’ break Ashley’s Roachclip. At the 0:46 mark, an unexpected yet definitely welcomed string sample oozes into Hyf’s verse, that adds new dimensions to the track which ends with a bass-heavy breakdown that satisfyingly finishes off the track.
The other 14 tracks share the same amount of quality, lush beats and thought provoking vocals as the first 3 I’ve listed, which include guest appearances from Ghettosocks, Nilla, Mayoori, Shaun Carlo, Sawbuck, DJ So Nice, City Fidelia, Just Poets, Eddie Brock, Kay Flow, Jvon Bishop Lawrence, Kanoe, Lisa Fowler, Beaugé, Cannon2x, Prufrock Shadowrunner, Apollo the Child, Lisa Fowler, Jenna Whiteley, and King Kimbit.
For $0.29 a track ($5.00 for the whole album), you need to pick up this record, especially if you’re a fan of classic soul and funk, mixed with millennial realness. You can find Soul Spins and the rest of Jeepz discography here.