Vinyl love: No Joy “Motherhood”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: No Joy
Album Title: Motherhood
Year released: 2020
Details: neon violet vinyl

The skinny: Back in September, I made my first Bandcamp Friday purchase. For those that have not heard of this wonderful initiative, it’s something Bandcamp started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to help support independent artists by waiving their usual fees on the first Friday of every month (see more info here). So yeah, my first Bandcamp Friday purchase was the fourth record by Montreal-based, dream pop project, No Joy, that had just been released two weeks prior. “Motherhood” is an album that had taken me by surprise, winning me over with its sheer exuberance and joy in experimentation. The fact that the pressing on offer on Bandcamp was a lovely neon violet certainly didn’t hinder my decision to pull the trigger. And perhaps it was the purchase on vinyl and how good it sounds that helped to raise the album to the number four spot on my favourite albums of the year list.

Standout track: “Dream rats”


Best albums of 2020: #4 No Joy “Motherhood”

Someone needs to get on updating the Wikipedia entry on No Joy. Calling the project led by Jasamine White-Gluz a shoegaze band now feels like a mislabel, especially after you listen to their excellent fourth record, “Motherhood”.

When I first got into Montreal-based No Joy six or seven years ago, the term seemed more apt. White-Gluz had just released a second album under the moniker, working as a duo with Laura Lloyd. Both “Wait to pleasure” and the debut that preceded it, “Ghost blonde”, were steeped in fuzzy and hazy guitar trails blazed by My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Lush. But there was a progression between the two albums, a hint that this act wasn’t just here to recreate and celebrate the original scene, a trope adopted by other ‘nu-gazers’.

After a third album, 2015’s “More faithful”, that was recorded by a more fleshed-out quartet, didn’t seem to move the marker far enough, White-Gluz took hold of the reins and took a break from recording LPs, in favour of a series of EPs, each striking out in a different exploratory direction. Perhaps most notable of these was her collaboration with Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember in 2018. She completely stepped away from her comfort zone here, dispensing with her trusty guitar and traded it for synthesizers. The resulting four songs on “No Joy / Sonic Boom” might not be what you’d expect from either artist but are definitely a compelling listen for fans of both.

For “Motherhood”, Jasmine White-Gluz picked up her guitar again but didn’t leave behind the synths. She picked up the shoegaze that she started this journey with but threw it in a shake-and-bake bag with some trip hop, hardcore, ambient, and a bunch of the other sounds she’s toyed with in the five years between LPs. Yet instead of sounding scattered and overwhelming, the eleven songs here are quite cohesive and have sense of direction. This is likely because the album has a singular driving force and her’s is an ethereal voice that works the room with confidence. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

My three picks for you are actually the album’s first three tracks and first three songs released in advance of it and the varied sounds are a good indication of the album’s explosive makeup.

“Dream rats“: The video for track two on “Motherhood” was released just a few days before the unveiling of the album itself. The song features the vocals of Jasamine’s sister, Alissa, the lead vocalist for Swedish death metal band Arch Enemy, a collaboration that the sisters haven’t been able to venture into together since both were very young. And the tune fits like a glove for both because after a short lazy intro, the song bursts forth into a furious pace that sounds like it might venture deep into thrash scream-o territory. Then, the shimmering, dancing synths kick in and it all gets dreamy again. The vocals, too, save for some perfectly placed growls, are ethereal and wispy, flitting and fleeting deep in the mix, the words all but indecipherable, ringing angelic against such a black, black, black backdrop of sound.

“Nothing will hurt”: For a track that starts out sounding a discordant industrial number, the second single really transforms into a dance floor burner reminiscent of Blondie, albeit with some disjointed flair. White-Gluz has said of its recording: “our mission in the studio was that no idea was too weird to try. That led to us squishing bananas into very expensive microphones to get textured percussion noises, shoving kitchen knives into guitar necks to create a perfect slide guitar sound and adding some Primus-inspired slap bass.” Yeah, it’s crazy but it works. It is gazing excitedly at shiny dancing shoes, stabbing guitars and rifling rhythms and shiny synths, oh my.

“Birthmark”: The opening track on the album and very first peek at the project’s first new album in five years hits like a ton of bricks. It’s the sound of 90s shoegaze gone 90s alternative dance. Think Chapterhouse’s second album “Blood music” or anything by Curve. Like the rest of the album, Jasamine White-Gluz had a lot of fun with this one in the studio, finding use for a set of bongos and apparently, a broken clarinet. The bongos are definitely front and centre and form the basis of a dance floor beckoning drum rhythm but I challenge you to point out the clarinet in the wall of sound she’s created in the loops and loops and loops. The party sound belies the subject matter, which according to White-Gluz, has its basis in the experience of visiting a relative in a senior living facility.

Check back next Thursday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Strokes “The new abnormal”
9. Venus Furs “Venus Furs”
8. Bright Eyes “Down in the weeds, where the world once was”
7. The Beths “Jump rope gazers”
6. The Rentals “Q36”
5. Secret Machines “Awake in the brain chamber”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.


Playlist: New tunes from 2020, part three

Well, well, well. Here we are, three quarters of the way through the year and with the end of each quarter brings a new instalment in my playlist project.

You may recall that I was a bit late and a bit slow organizing parts one and two in this series, but they were both great mixes so if you haven’t already done so, go ahead and check them out as well. By comparison, though, I was a lot more on the ball with part three. Perhaps I’m finally getting used to this new reality. Or perhaps I’m sensing an end to this year and I’m subconsciously preparing myself to close things out. Indeed, I had already pretty much wrapped this one up before the end of September and ended up having to make room for the track from Fleet Foxes’ surprise album when it was announced last week. Because, well… how could I not?

This third playlist (like the others before it) is very much a retelling of the season by the music from which it came. These particular tunes soundtracked a lost summer. A season of people relaxing things up a little bit (perhaps too much in some cases) but still keeping aware of the risks this pandemic posed. People were trying to get out into the fresh air, to stretch their legs, to meet up with other people (at a safe distance) on patios and such. To catch up, tell stories, to reach out and try to grab on to some normalcy. There wasn’t a lot of options for travel and the weekend trips that my wife and I were used to taking each summer to get away didn’t seem worth the risk. Still, we took the odd day trip, got out on our bikes, and out into the outdoors on hikes. Yeah. It was a weird summer but these twenty five tunes brought the sun and cheer anyway. Damn it all. Thank goodness for music.

On that note, let’s have a look at some of the highlights of this season’s playlist:

      • Dream wife flirts with a bunch of different sounds on their sophomore record and all of it a bit raw but it’s this ear worm single, “Hasta la vista” of which I just can’t get enough
      • I almost took a pass on checking out the first new album in almost thirty years by British new wave rockers Psychedelic Furs and I’m so glad I didn’t, because I would’ve missed out on instant classics like “Wrong train”
      • I honestly never thought I’d have Shania Twain appear in my music collection but thanks to Canadian alternative country outlaw, Orville Peck, she does and I’ve found myself humming “Legends never die” on many an occasion since first hearing it
      • “My own soul’s warning”, the first new track by The Killers that has hooked me since their sophomore album was released back in 2006
      • New tune by Secret Machines, “Everything starts”, marks a welcome return by neo-prog rockers and it feels here like they haven’t missed a beat
      • And speaking of welcome returns, one of my favourite bands ever, Doves are back with new music and “Carousels” is just gorgeous – period, full stop

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it:

1. “A reason to celebrate” bdrmm (from the album Bedroom)

2. “Hasta la vista” Dream Wife (from the album So when you gonna…)

3. “I’m not getting excited” The Beths (from the album Jump rope gazers)

4. “That’s how rumors get started” Margo Price (from the album That’s how rumors get started)

5. “Run it” My Morning Jacket (from the album The waterfall II)

6. “Must I evolve?” Jarv Is (from the album Beyond the pale)

7. “Haha” Dehd (from the album Flower of devotion)

8. “Wrong train” The Psychedelic Furs (from the album Made of rain)

9. “If I told” Courtney Marie Andrews (from the album Old flowers)

10. “Sunflower” Dizzy (from the album The sun and her scorch)

11. “Televised mind” Fontaines D.C. (from the album A hero’s death)

12. “Legends never die” Orville Peck with Shania Twain (from the EP Show pony)

13. “Hard on everyone” Kathleen Edwards (from the album Total freedom)

14. “Our new day” Levellers (from the album Peace)

15. “Mariana Trench” Bright Eyes (from the album Down in the weeds, where the world once was)

16. “My own soul’s warning” The Killers (from the album Imploding the mirage)

17. “Birthmark” No Joy (from the album Motherhood)

18. “Everything starts” Secret Machines (from the album Awake in the brain chamber)

19. “Dig in” I Like Trains (from the album Kompromat)

20. “This is not the indie rock I signed up for” Girl Friday (from the album Androgynous Mary)

21. “(We are all mirrors)” Angel Olsen (from the album Whole new mess)

22. “That emotion” Hannah Georgas (from the album All that emotion)

23. “Carousels” Doves (from the album The universal want)

24. “Solipsism” Fenne Lily (from the album Breach)

25. “Can I believe you” Fleet Foxes (from the album Shore)

And as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Until next time, enjoy the tunes.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.