Published Mar 10, 2020Incubated within Montreal's hardcore punk scene, formed through a collective embrace of '80s music, Mundy's Bay hail from the cheapest big city to live in Canada, yet offer some of the richest, dreamiest soundscapes Canadian music has to offer.
Lonesome Valley, their debut full-length, is informed by vocalist/keyboardist Esther Mulder's poetry, but is also part introspective character study, dream interpretation, narratives of aging through your 20s and falling in and out of love.
The project is a compromise of expansive '80s new wave, sweet dream pop and noisy guitar strums heard in a fuzzy grunge act or the cutting room floor of a hardcore record. Their shared expression is best heard on second single "Visions of You," the longest but soundest cut of the bunch; it never overstays its warm welcome through airy synth, hi-hat cymbal grooves and swaying guitar leads.
Two tracks later, "Window in the Shade" brings Real Estate to mind, soon after transitioning to grunge sections and soft piano to conclude the song. These detours, of course, are resolved through production by Converge's Kurt Ballou on Lonesome Valley, a strange pairing for some listeners, but lest we forget, Ballou has recorded the likes of Joyce Manor, Nails, Chelsea Wolfe and Code Orange.
Of course, not all is at ease in the Lonesome Valley. Its shakiest moments are actually quite crowded. It's as though Mulder's vocal parts and guitarists Victor Beaudoin and John Donnelly's ideas are for two separate songs, somewhat misplaced together on "Heavy Bloom." Mulder's efforts are noteworthy though — the melodies she emits in her vocals and keyboard work are some of the strongest of this album, you just might not notice it until a third or fourth listen. "Wash Over Me" is dance-y and unites faint but gorgeous melodic guitars with soaring synth parts adjacent to the Cure worship on Title Fight's Hyperview. However, as it proceeds, the track has noticeably empty sections shielded by overcompensating drum tension and predictable, gazing feedback. Its very fascinating and urgent until it's not.
The bass-driven "Dreams" finds Mundy's Bay at their most cohesive, but where the Montreal quartet quite literally shine is "Heaven's Close." Clapping percussion keeps time as Mulder performs what is objectively the most beguiling chorus of Lonesome Valley. It's songs like these that will keep their name in peoples' mouths and could find their record aging much like Alvvays' debut has throughout the last decade.
In a time where music taste is more fluid than ever, and the word "genre" is more likely to cause an eye-roll than a water cooler conversation, Mundy's Bay embrace these shifting attitudes in full on Lonesome Valley, a promising full-length from one of Canada's most underrated acts. (Pure Noise)