Ben Gunning has always had a unique sound, not only when it comes to his guitar-playing style – clean tones, melodies derived from unusual scales and chords, a worked-up delivery – but also to his vocals. His pinched, anxious falsetto lent huge character and hooks to his Montreal teenage rock band the Local Rabbits.
In the 13 or so years since the Rabbits’ demise, he’s continued forging a path all his own (and in Toronto). His solo albums are feats of ambitious conceptualism and musicianship, more soft jazz pop than quirky indie rock. Finalboss finds him going instrumental (as he does in his four-piece Swiss Dice), complemented hugely by co-writing guitarist/lap steel player Christine Bougie and drummer Joel Stouffer.
The trio’s debut album has few sharp edges and lots to hold interest. It’s light and fresh. Many moments make you smile, and you’re not even sure why or how. Playfulness infuses the high, loopy lead synth line in Disco Ronde, for example. Minusworld’s percussive xylophones (and maybe wood blocks?) offset superb guitar leads with thick, tough tones. Even without lyrics, Finalboss gets plenty of feeling across.
Top track: Minusworld