One of Canada's next big musical exports.
Often the best musical finds come in the form of discovering those weirder, smaller, unknown acts that you stumble upon when you're going on a deep troll through the vast rabbit holes of YouTube or Bandcamp. Such is the case with Canadian youngsters, romancer and their newly released EP, 'Honeybee'. Except you don't have to spend hours online to find them as I've already gone and done the hard yards for ya. (Don't worry, you can thank me later). Even in myself only recently being made aware of the band, that awesome feeling of finding a great new band for the first time still pervades my heart almost two weeks since first hearing romancer. Which is mainly due to how good this up and coming Ontario band's rather short yet wonderfully sweet new EP is!
'Honeybee' - more so than the Kitchener group's previous release, 2016's 'As We Both Close In On The Water' EP - is a solid, well-written and extremely dynamic sonic crossroads between early 2000's alternative, indie and emo elements and far more recent ambient and post-rock influences. It's like if you took the twinkle elements of American Football, the drive and hooks of Jimmy Eat World and Taking Back Sunday and mixed in the tones and dynamic post-rock sounds of Moneen or the wider instrumental shades Explosions In The Sky. Yes, I know that all sounds a little weird and similar to what The World Is A Beautiful Place and Sorority Noise do. And no, it's not shit - it's fucking solid, from start to end, in fact.
Opener 'Still (Eden)' is this gut-wrenching song about the passing of a father, wishing for more time loved ones, and then the embracing said loss as one starts "selfishly crying by your bedside". It begins with soft, soothing vocal lines over the top of jangly guitar chords that wouldn't have gone amiss on an American Football release sans all the trumpet parts. Then, in what may as well be considered a sign of things to come, the band erupt this peaceful, serene soundscape into a fast-paced melodic hardcore section full of galloping drums, panned-out guitar riffs and interchanging leads, with these bright, reverberant vocals above. It's a crossover sound of sorts that may have come off as disparate but romancer makes it all work cohesively.
Case in point is the second track and brilliant lead single, 'Nausicaa', which is a dynamic rollercoaster and then some! It shifts between brief ambient, tremolo-laden post-rock moments and intense punk rock sections that sit somewhere between the massive hooks of Taking Back Sunday and the raw aggression and pacing of Alexisonfire's first two records where the four-piece thrash their respective instruments around as hard as they can. All before a dreamy finale sees the band float the song off into the ether for a quiet conclusion. Straight up, 'Nausicaa' is an absolute gem and is hands down my personal favourite cut of the whole EP.
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The noisy guitar rungs of feedback and distortion upheave the pristine setting of lush guitars and sweet vocal harmonies that establish the slower 'Milo and Pink Regret' from the get-go but they do so a grand, moving manner. It's this stark contrast of instrumental whispers and violent roars that are akin to the likes of someone like Salvage My Dream that help this track surge and sway to a climax full of small, chaotic bursts of tremolo leads and cymbal crashes between quiet moments of clean guitar licks and spacious drum grooves.
The EP's sole instrumental track, 'Purple' is a short flurry in the vein of Grown Ups, Tiny Moving Parts and People Like You (just minus the brass sections) that effortlessly and smoothly transitions into the romantic, lyrical reverie of 'Stop Motion' without skipping a beat. Both literally and figuratively speaking. These two songs also highlight just how warm and natural the production behind this EP, something that further adds to the homey, inviting nature of 'Honeybee' overall.
From there, romancer then forgoes any sense of formalities regarding their emo/rock musical personalities (they do retain the angsty post-breakup lyrics, though) and aim high with the airy, ethereal yet droning post-rock vibes of EP closer, 'Sleep'. It's like an abstract, heavenly ascension put to tape, and in the most succinct description, is a fitting finale.
What I love the most about romancer's new EP is that this isn't just a phoned-in nostalgic emo/post-hardcore sound for the pure sake of rehashing and cashing in on what was once so very popular in the previous decade. Rather, it's this young Canadian band's genuine love letter and appreciation for the artists, albums and sounds that inspired and influenced them deeply and a great one at that. It's not cynical or shoe-horned in; it's loving and real.
The only nit-picks I have with this release is that it is only 17-minutes long, that it feels like its almost over before it begins; and that it's just not quite long enough for what this kind of spliced sound needs. Likewise, after a few listens through, I sorely wished that this was a full-length record instead, as I just wanted more of it and also because that would've really allowed for romancer to expand their brilliant sound out to bigger and better heights.
1. Still (Eden)
3. Milo And Pink Regret
5. Stop Motion
'Honeybee' is out now. Stream my favourite cut from this EP, 'Nausicaa', below: