Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Somewhere in the first half of this decade there was a handful of female artists and bands churned out into mainstream Canadian music and steered towards an edgy look and sound—for example, Avril Lavigne became an international Top 40 star, while Vancouver then-teens Live On Release and their single “I’m Afraid of Britney Spears” were banished to the one-hit-wonder subconsciousness of regular Muchmusic viewers. Based mostly on timing (oh, and uh, total gender association), innocent bystanders Magneta Lane got lumped into a similar rundown of names, and even after releasing their excellent third album, Gambling with God (while also jumping from indie powerhouse Paper Bag to powerhousier Last Gang Records), they might still be suffering from the initial wrong-place-wrong-time impression.
Growth is evident on Gambling with God in both the understated North York trio’s songwriting and in the production; Jon Drew is at the helm again, and since last working with Magneta Lane he layered a billion tracks to make Fucked Up’s Polaris-winning Chemistry of Common Life and crafted a slick radio-rock hit in the Arkells’ Jackson Square. Drew hasn’t painted this record with quite as bombastic a brush, instead maintaining a low rumble of suppressed shoegaze guitars and thick but bouncy bass, heard at its catchiest in lead single “Lady Bones” and in “Castles” (streaming above), a pure slice of power-pop where vocalist Lexi Valentine hits her most Debbie Harry–sounding range yet, but with an introverted reservation foreign to Harry’s cheeky confidence. The simplicity of a well-blended, primarily three-instrument record is refreshing, and on songs like title track “Gambling with God” we’re reminded where the hell those Strokes comparisons came from in the first place, alternating sustained and frantic down-strums, swaggering blasé vocals, and the rhythm crackling with the hard-contained excitement of a kid on Christmas Eve. It’s Magenta Lane playing into their biggest strengths—seamless and impactful while keeping a low-maintenance approach.
There are even a few imperfections on Gambling with God that help to dispel any polished girl-group misconceptions and squish Magneta Lane even more snugly into the way-cooler contingent of guitar bands like Halifax’s Jale or Vancouver’s Cub (sadly both defunct). Gambling with God is a fine continuation of Magneta Lane’s surprisingly under-represented streamlined approach.