Tag: Western Canadian Music Awards

New Video: I M U R Releases a Sultry Pop Banger Rooted in Self-Doubt

Formed back in 2015, rising Vancouver-based indie electro pop act I M U R (pronounced I am You Are) — founding members singer/songwriter Jenny Lea and guitarist and producer Mikey J. Blige and producer/multi-instrumentalist Amine Bouzaher — have firmly established a unique sound that’s a cinematic yet sultry and catchy blend of alt R&B, avant-pop and contemporary electro pop paired with lyrics that tackle personal and often uncomfortable subjects like addiction, recovery, female sexuality, self-reflection, vulnerability and strength, partially inspired by Lea’s early, near-death experience and the strength and resiliency she gained from her recovery.

Since their formation, the act has released a growing batch of critically applauded material:

2015’s debut EP Slow Dive, which featured “Trippin’ On Feet”
2017’s full-length debut Little Death, which featured standout tracks “FFL” “Little Death” and “Breathless.” “Breathless” was featured in SyFy’s Wynonna Earp Season 2 and Freeform’s Good Trouble Season 1.
2018 saw the release of the Thirty33 EP, which featured “Miss You Hate You,” “Should Be” and “Afterglow.” All three of those tracks featured in a number of TV shows including Netflix’s Snowpiercer, Pretty Little Things, Wu Assassins and Workin’ Moms.

Adding to a rising profile, the act has amassed millions of streams globally, which has lead to the band landing on the Spotify Viral 50 Charts. They’ve won an Electronic Music Artist of the Year Award at the 2019 Western Canadian Music Awards — all while receiving critical applause across the blogosphere, including this site. Around the same time, the Canadian electro pop act managed to maintain a busy touring schedule: The act toured in India in 2018. The following year, they made the rounds of the North American festival circuit with stops at Shambala, Bass Coast, Capitol Hill Block Party and Winnipeg Jazz Fest, while playing shows in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

2019 saw the release of two more singles “Fever” and “Lips, Tongue and Teeth,” which I managed to write about on this site. Much like countless acts across the worlds, the pandemic put their touring plans on an indefinite pause; but the act used the newfound free time to write and record their highly anticipated album My Molecules.

Slated for a June 25, 2021 release, My Molecules will reportedly be a deeply personal journey into Lea’s life, centered around a thread of undeniable realness for anyone who’s experienced love, loss, lust and everything else in between. My Molecules’ second and latest single “Sad Girls Club” further cements the band’s penchant for genre-defying yet infectious pop: sonically the song meshes skittering trap beats, Quiet Storm-like R&B and contemporary electro pop in a sleek fashion. Thematically, underneath its club friendliness, the song is one part unvarnished confessional and one part messy cry at your own party because everything is fucked up.

“Sad Girls Club” was inspired by the first month of quarantine, when all of Lea’s daily distractions ground to a halt, and a lot of her personal demons reappeared. Self-doubt, depression and addiction patterns in her life bubbled up when she felt purposeless and adrift. Writer’s block became a harsh reality. “Sad Girls Club was my break-through from the block, but also by expressing my fears in a tangible way, it helped to pull me out of the mud,” Jenny Lea says in press notes. She goes on to explain that “Sad Girls Club is about the trickery our subconscious mind plays on us when we’re feeling low. It’s about Self-deprecation, unworthiness, and being burdensome.” I M U R’s Amine Bouzaher adds “Ironically, a lot of negative thoughts combined to create an epic, dark banger, and we were able to pour all of those feelings into the production of the track. It’s always amazing to see what incredible art and positivity can come from channeling negative thoughts and feelings.” The Canadian act’s Mikey J. Blige encapsulates the overall vibe of the song, by saying “It’s ok at any age to feel like an emo kid that loves pop music AND trap music.” 

Directed and edited by Sterling Larose, the glitchy visual features Lea laying an iron on herself and at other points wearing roughly 80 pound boat chains to symbolize the emotional weight and heaviness of doubt, depression and addition can have on a person. The tattoo that she gets the video is a real tattoo and the footage of her in the shower was part of an hour-long shower she took after. “I think it was the heaviness that sometimes comes along with being real and being honest,” Lea says. “Just because you’re being honest doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be a happy ending Disney princess movie.” 

New Audio: Dan Mangan’s Spectral Cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”

Dan Mangan is a Smithers, British Columbia, Canada-born, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based multi-Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, whose music career started in earnest back in 2003 when he was 20 with the release of his debut EP All At Once. 500 copies were pressed and then sold or given away throughout the Vancouver area. Building upon the initial bit of buzz surrounding him, Mangan financially supported with a bank loan, recorded his Daniel Elemes and Simon Kelly co-produced full-length debut Postcards & Dreaming with the assistance of a small community of musicians, who offered cheap or free session work. Much like All At Once, Mangan initially released his full-length debut independently, selling the album online and at live shows; but by 2007, Vancouver-based indie label File Under: Music re-released the album with new artwork and a new, extra track “Ash Babe.”

August 2009 saw the release of Mangan’s sophomore full-length effort Nice, Nice, Very Nice. Deriving its name from a line Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, the John Critchley-produced album was recorded at Toronto’s Green Door Studios and featured an assortment of Canadian musicians include Veda Hille, Justin Rutledge, Mark Berube, Hannah Georgas, members of Said The Whale, Major Maker and Elliot Brood. The album’s first two singles “Robots” and “Road Regrets” received airplay on local Vancouver radio stations, as well as The Verge and CBC Radio 3 — with Magnan eventually winning Artist of the Year at that year’s Verge Music Awards. 

The following year, Nice, Nice, Very Nice was licensed and released by renowned, Toronto-based indie label Arts & Crafts in the States and in Europe through City Slang Records. Adding to growing critical acclaim surrounding the album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, named iTunes Album of the Year in the singer/songwriter category, won three Western Canadian Music Awards — Independent Album of the Year, Roots/Solo Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. And “Robots” was named Best Song in the CBC Radio 3 BUCKY Awards. 

Over the course of the next year, Mangan began collaborating with musicians from Vancouver’s experimental music scene, recruiting rummer Kenton Loewen (Mother Mother, Submission Hold and Gord Grdina Trio), bassist John Walsh (Brasstronaut) and guitarist Gord Grdina (Gord Grdina Trio, Haram, and East Van Strings) to be his backing band for the writing and recording sessions that eventually comprised 2011’s Colin Stewart-produced Oh Fortune. Loewen, Walsh and Grdina recruited a large, rotating cast of local musicians including trumpeter JP Carter (Fond of Tigers, Destroyer), violinist Jesse Zubot (Fond of Tigers, Hawksley Workman, Tanya Tagaq), pianist Tyson Naylor and cellist Peggy Lee (Mary Margaret O’Hara, Wayne Horvitz, Veda Hille). Additionally, Magnan enlisted Eyvind Kang to contribute orchestral arrangements. The album was a critical and commercial success with the album winning Juno Awards for New Artist of the Year and Alternative Album of the Year with nominations for Songwriter of the Year and Video of the year for the Jon Busby-produced video for “Rows of Houses.” The album won three Western Canadian Music Awards for “Rock Album of the Year,” Independent Album of the Year,” and “Songwriter of the Year.” Also, the album was long-listed for that year’s Polaris Music Prize. Lastly, “Rows of Houses” won Best Song in the CBC Radio 3 BUCKY Awards, making Mangan the winningest artist in the award’s history — and the only artist to date that has won in the Best Song category multiple times. 

Credited to Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, 2015’s Club Meds found Magnan and his backing band of Grdina, Loewen, Walsh, Naylor, Carter and Zubot focusing on core band contributions — and while critically applauded, the album wasn’t as commercially successful as its predecessor. Since then, Mangan released the digitally released EP Unmake, which featured a cover of Robyn’s “Hang With Me,” stripped down versions of “Kitsch” and “Forgetery,” off Club Meds and an acoustic version of “Whistleblower,” re-worked from the original 6/8 time to 4/4 time and contributions from Tegan and Sara’s Tegan Quin, and drummer Loel Campbell (Wintersleep and Holy Fuck). Mangan has also done a few film and TV scores, including the CBC/AMC series Unspeakable, headed the Arts & Crafts Records imprint Madic Records, which released albums by Walrus and Astral Swans, who he has produced. During this exceedingly busy period, the acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist took some time off and became a father before writing and releasing his latest album the Drew Brown-produced, More or Less, an album that Mangan claims “feels more like ‘me’ than ever.” 

The critically applauded Vancouver-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is currently in the middle of a lengthy tour to support his latest effort, and it includes a March 14, 2019 stop at Mercury Lounge. (You can check out the tour dates below.) And to celebrate the tour, and its inclusion in the trailer for Unspeakable, Mangan released a spectral, Peter Gabriel-like cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” that’s centered around a looped guitar line, twinkling jazz-like keys and Magnan’s plaintive vocals. Admittedly, while I’ve been a huge R.E.M. fan for most of my life, I’ve hated “Losing My Religion” for many years because it was played way to death and then some throughout 1991 and 1992; but Mangan’s cover reminds me of the original song’s mysterious quality and weary ache. “When I was a kid, R.E.M. was a staple in my household,” says Mangan. “I remember air guitaring to this song with my brother and sister. It was such a massive hit but also so unlikely a candidate to be so. The chorus isn’t really a chorus. It’s long. It’s repetitive. It’s like a hypnotic cyclical trance of words that stick with you even if you have no idea what they’re about. I really wanted to try and approach it from a new angle. There’s no point in attempting to sing like Michael Stipe — there is only one Michael Stipe. So I tried my best to let it live in a new light while paying homage to the original.”