Our story begins in Cranbrook, a city of 20,000 in southeastern BC. With a highly effective hockey program, the city has churned out some notable NHL players, like Steve Yzerman. But like all Canadian cities, hockey was only half of the equation to sell out its arenas. Cranbrook was in need of a local rock band. While in high school, the Duo-Tang wielding Evin sisters with Louise Burns and Sierra Hills came to the rescue forming Tigerlily in 1997. This all-girl group displayed enough talent to be signed by Madonna’s Maverick Records, and they changed their name to Lillix. Not only did they enjoy success across the country, but internationally, most notably in Japan. In 2004, the band received a pair of JUNO nominations.
Here we are concerned with the band’s bass player, Louise Burns, who eventually went solo. In 2011, this incredibly talented singer-songwriter released her debut album, Mellow Drama, infused with fuzzy, tambourine-jingling, head-bobbing pop. With such delicious tracks like “Drop Names Not Bombs” and the beautiful, electro beat capped “Ocean Grey”, the album was long listed for the Polaris Prize. Louise’s captivating voice was compared to Stevie Nicks’ and Chrissie Hynde’s. While enjoying a solo career, Burns joined the new Vancouver-based electronic rock band Gold & Youth who released their dazzling debut album, Beyond Wilderness, earlier this year.
And now, Louise has dropped her sophomore solo album, The Midnight Mass. In her own words, on this work, she wanted to create music that was “coherent and cinematic and beautiful and dark” like the products of John Foxx, the British electronic rock pioneer she admires greatly. Burns’ new album reminds us of Siouxsie and the Banshees with some added synth textures. Most importantly, it effectively showcases her songwriting genius. The lead single, “Emeralds Shatter” was launched back in April. It unseals the album with its cinematic, nighttime opening followed by twangy, Twin Peaks bass, jamboree percussion, and heightened vocal reverb. The sweeping, melodic “Ruby” follows, the album’s new single. A driving beat opens “San Andreas” where matter-of-fact, ominous storytelling bursts into an irresistible, perfectly-constructed chorus. A rocking chair on a hot, dusty porch at a country home comes to mind with spaghetti western influenced “He’s My Woman”. “Jasper’s” determined beat breeds addiction, while “Heaven” glides gracefully, leading up to the slow burning glory of “The Lodger”. The album concludes with a dark wave cover of the Gun Club’s “Mother of Earth”.
The Midnight Mass was produced by Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan, A. C. Newman) and the Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner. We’ll be burning the midnight oil listening to this gem for a long time.