Review: Toronto’s Jesse Crowe finds strange peace on debut Praises album

Rating: NNN

Toronto’s Jesse Crowe specializes in dark and brooding music delivered with slow and steady intentionality. The nine songs on her first full-length solo record as Praises are melancholic but also meditative, almost as if the act of writing and performing them were (and are) a way for her to breathe through her history and experiences. (The press release alludes to “personal demons.”)

It’s a fuller sonic palette than what’s heard on her two previous Praises EPs, and largely devoid of the melodic hooks and hopeful harmonies of her dream pop band Beliefs, which she co-fronts with local indie music producer extraordinaire Josh Korody (who was a co-producer alongside Crowe on this record). Here, reverbed guitar lines, minimal pretty piano and/or dissonant string synth ambience – all played by Crowe – join together with her ethereal vocals to form something like a prayer, confessional or gentle wondering. She may be lost in a haze but seems fully present to it, her vocals airy but always assured, her lyrics searching but full of conviction. Otherworldly figures and tarot-card references abound the titular Ten of Swords is linked to disaster, betrayal and suffering but also to darkness giving way to dawn. 

The aesthetic is so defined – slow tempos, spare instrumentation, minor-key dark wave, quiet eeriness – as to occasionally be a disadvantage. Less noticeable on the EPs, a samey-ness creeps in as the album progresses. You might forget it’s playing. But that also makes it the perfect background soundtrack to, say, post-therapy reflection, rainy day malaise or aimless urban wandering. And it incrementally moves toward a new, less bleak place by the end. The shift is subtle, like most growth or change. Despite the dark times from which it was allegedly conceived, In This Year: Ten Of Swords is strangely, evocatively peaceful. 

Top track: C To C

Praises plays the Burdock on December 15. See listing.

@nowtoronto | @guitarlacarla

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