Secret Sun

I first heard Secret Sun, the Montréal-based duo of Anne-Marie Campbell and Simon Landry, via the multi-talented Émilie Proulx, who had tweeted the link to a videoclip for the pair's single "Feather." So when it was announced that the duo had their debut album "Cold Coast" scheduled for release last month, I made a mental note in my diary...

Dreamy and intelligent synth-pop seems to have made a bit of a resurgence of late with the public at large - helped, I suspect by the success of both London Grammar and Chvrches and while it's probably fair to say that Anne-Marie's voice doesn't quite have the same frisson as Hannah Reid's it can equally be said that Secret Sun's debut album more than stands favourable comparison with both of those band's debut offerings.

Now I've always been a sucker for looping synths and staccato drum machines, and Simon Landry ensures that the album's opening track "Passing cars" has both in spades. Anne-Marie's subtly echoed and over-dubbed breathless vocals float over the slowly ebbing beat... It's a strong opening number that is guaranteed to tweak the discerning listener's interest, while
the album's title track is an incredibly bouncy number complete with rich, almost symphonic synths - it's reminiscent of the bold, orchestral sound and lyrical mysticism created by Highasakite

"Can't you see" kicks off with the soaring synths that wouldn't sound out of place on a Chvrches composition, but rapidly changes both mood and tone as the song morphs effortlessly into a lilting pop ballad married to the most sublime of multi-layered vocals, before those soaring synths kick back-in and the song picks-up the pace again, with  swirling keys head-off in a tangent - it's the first indication that there's far more to this duo have more than one string to their bow.

But the pair can craft beautiful and intimate songs. "My Messenger" "Stay still" and the album's closer "Crashing waves" are all at face value just beautiful and seemingly effortlessly stripped-back, intimate pop songs - the sort of song that can make me go quite weak at the knees - the latter complete with sympathetic piano accompaniment - especially when all are performed as sympathetically as these...

However, nothing - nothing - can prepare you for the awesomeness that is "NHNT" - starting out with stark, industrial synths - the vocals are deliberately monotonic; ethereal sounds appear from nowhere... and then about half-way through the song magically evolves into a gorgeous melody wrapped in the most angelic of voices - the end result is almost one of two distinctly separate pieces that have been seamlessly welded together... It's a trick the band pull-off again with "Don’t behave" as the ear is pounded with industrial synth drums and reverbed vocals... and then the mood lightens - poppy synths take on a distinctive Euro-pop feel, lightening the mood and lifting the gloom... Two really strong songs which suggest that Secret Sun aren't afraid to experiment. Indeed, I particularly like the arrangements on "City." Anne-Marie occasionally goes all Nina Persson on us. I can't help suspect that if The Cardigans had been an electronic synth-pop band they'd have sounded a bit like this. There's a nice touch of heavily reverbed guitar during the middle 8 and I really shouldn't need to add any further description as to how good a song this is...

"Feather" - the track that introduce me to the band - is an effortless homage to 80's electro-pop. Bold and brassy synths gently subside as Anne-Marie's voice just seems to floats above a looping melody - frankly this is an absolutely stunning song - which as the video below demonstrates - is equally wondrous when performed acoustically with just simple guitar accompaniment - although when the vocals sound this glorious you can't help but sit up and take notice...

"Cold Coast" is a really powerful and strong debut album - one that suggests that the computer games industry's loss is us, music lovers, gain (apparently the pair met whilst working at Ubisoft). If your musical bent leaves you partial to a bit of either London Grammar or Chvrches, the cutting edge of Propaganda, contemporaries such as Brooklyn's sublime Au Revoire Simone, Connecticut's Verdigrls or fellow Canadians Austra (whom, having seen them open for Chvrches are well worth checking out), you could do a lot worse than give this album a spin.

Highly recommended!

Secret Sun Website
Secret Sun "Cold Coast" (Bandcamp), (Bonsound), (iTunes)


Post a Comment