Motherhood by No JoyRelease date: August 21, 2020
Label: Joyful Noise Recordings
I’ve followed Montreal’s No Joy (primarily Jasamine White-Gluz) for quite some time, and have always found this genre-shifting group to be quite the musical chameleons. Never wanting to be pigeonholed as a shoegaze outfit, White-Gluz has strived to grow stylistically and marries the usual hazy dream pop and ‘gaze with dance beats and punk-pop.
This latest outing was produced by the mysterious Jorge Elbrecht (Violens), who also guests as a multi-instrumentalist. The record was engineered by Madeleine Campbell (Women in Sound zine) and Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie), and also features percussion by Jamie Thompson and shredding guitar and banjo work from Tara McLeod. For their first full length in half a decade, White-Gluz plugged in synthesis, reintroduced guitars, and created a work that is not a huge departure from their early shoegaze but also expands into the aforementioned musical areas.
The opener ‘Birthmark’ is both familiar and foreign. It is wide open, embracing your ears with its radio friendly tones and White-Gluz’s sweet voice. It almost reminds me of Madonna when she decided to embrace rock on ‘Ray of Light’. It will captivate you, and decimate your senses as it unfolds. Then the blistering ‘Dream Rats’, which starts calmly, will whack you upside the head with its howling main riff. Even as it blisters, it is softened by a killer melody that tempers its fury. The dichotomy of hard and soft is fascinating. It is one of my favorite tracks here, offering a delectable mélange of styles in just over 3:30.
‘Nothing Will Hurt’ is glistening dance pop with silver-spangled vocals. In the middle of the song, it surfs between ambient dream pop and electronica before resuming its dance beats. ‘Four’ is marvelously uplifting, with its hazy, chiming chords and gauzy sonic layers. Then it skews off into odd sounds and becomes a laid back groove. I dig the vintage 80s synths and volcanic guitar bursts winding through the mix. Truly a weird tune! ‘Ageless’ is crystalline synth pop, something The Pet Shop Boys might trot out if they were female-fronted.
‘Why Mothers Die’ is a somewhat dour title, but the pretty harmonies and upbeat melody offset any melancholy you might experience. ‘Happy Bleeding’ is lissome electronica that percolates along in a jaunty manner. Never try to guess what direction this song, or any other here, will go in because everything is mobile, from the mood to the musical shifts in tone. ‘Signal Lights’ verges on dream psych, and is easily one of the prettiest songs in this collection. ‘Primal Curse’ is a gentle excursion with trilling vocals, while ‘Fish’ is quirky and fun. ‘Kidder’ is the album’s coda, and it kicks in with synths and some classic shoegaze riffs. Another killer tune that encompasses everything that No Joy has become known for, in addition to the new musical paths ventured throughout this record. In summary, this is an interesting and cool record that will keep you guessing as to its musical direction. A recommended listen for all No Joy fans and others that enjoy the genres listed here.