Charlie Hilton – Palana
Charlie Hilton has a lilting, lovely voice strengthened by a rich combination of sound. The artist breaks into her debut solo album with outstanding mastery, departing from lead vocals and guitar in Blouse, to create a work entirely her own. Released on January 22, the album’s title refers to Hilton’s given Sanskrit name. After finishing school she remade herself as “Charlie.” This feeling of transition and self-making defines Hilton’s unique solo album.
The album retains a base of Blouse’s early work but experiments and adapts to mix a pronounced sense of self-expression with an equally beautiful musical talent. “Pony,” an attention-grabbing single of the debut, illustrates Hilton’s sharp lyrics: “Get off my back / I’m not your pony / I’m getting tired of what you’re handing out.”
Palana moves effortlessly from the single’s psychedelic edge to a sweet, silvery guitar in “100 Million,” featuring vocals and music by Mac DeMarco. An ode to the small eternities of romance, the duet is effortlessly charming. “No One Will” is, in a similar vein, contributing to this soft, simple sound. A serenade in its true form, Hilton’s lyrics describe a love that is honest and easy. Other songs such as “Snow,” “Palana,” “WHY,” and “The Young” complete the artist’s vision of a hazy lullaby.
At times, however, the mellow lull of the tracks backfire. The clarity of Hilton’s lyrics is usually brilliant with occasional blunt moments in an otherwise extraordinary album. “Funny Anyway” is filled with rolling rhythm and melody, but falls flat due to its dull monotone and lack of lyrical insight.
The album is not lacking in bright self-expression, however. Alive with colour, Palana includes an assortment of rhapsody. Hilton chants to impulsive youth: “We don’t have to plan it / I never liked routine.” Another track, “Something for Us All” breaks out in an eclectic harmony that, for all its creative combination of alternative tones, doesn’t disappoint. “Long Goodbye” complements the song set, giving Hilton’s debut an impressive range.
In Palana, Hilton is bouncing synths, saccharine acoustics and everything in between, which makes for a stunning set. This album is a starkly modern take on vintage sound of the psychedelic era with something interesting for every listener.
Smileswithteeth – Walk Forever
When enveloped by Walk Forever’s bubbling synths, swelling vocals, and wind chime melodies, you can’t help but feel a rush of vitality. On January 21, Montreal dream pop band Smileswithteeth released their five-track EP, a cultivation of resonance that is simultaneously upbeat and meditative. Walk Forever creates a soundtrack to that hazy limbo of rushing thoughts and mellow calm.
In the album’s description on the band’s website, Smileswithteeth frontman Gabriel Gutierrez says the EP was inspired by his desolate and contemplative semester spent in Paris. Upon returning to Montreal, Los Angeles-raised Gutierrez pulled himself out of the recesses of loneliness, took a walk in the sunshine, and was overtaken by a newfound energy and optimism. This spirit was channeled into sound, resulting in the formation of two new band projects. Walk Forever, backed by Lillian King and Kyle Hutchins, extends a hand so that we can join this journey.
Smilewithteeth’s recent release has a lighter, more refined sound than the band’s previous album, Everyday Always. The sentiment of maintaining a positive and dynamic existence is what ties the two productions together. In Walk Forever, this positive energy reaches its apex in the tick-tock tempo of “Sup,” a song described by Gutierrez in an interview with Exclaim as “a tune made for peach sorbet at an imaginary beach.”
This is music to listen to while in motion, and music that will keep you in motion – regardless of where you’re walking to. From King’s haunting voice in the opening track to sampled passing laughter and mumbled conversation appearing later in the album, Smileswithteeth captures the texture and rhythm of a city street, evoking a sense of aimless wandering and instilling a desire for constant movement.
Walk Forever transcends the sound of footsteps on concrete sidewalks – you can hear raindrops filtering through a forest canopy, the warmth of a sunny beach, and the energy of life manifested. The result is a dreamlike buoyancy, but also a rhythmic stability that is grounding and palpable. Walk Forever is a reminder that we are surrounded by a boundless world of energy, light, and sound, and when we allow ourselves to roam and to be embraced by this world, no recess of loneliness is too deep to rise from.