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.
Lady singer-songwriters get an historically raw deal (thanks for nothing, Lilith Fair). But when you’re lumped in, first and foremost, with company as incestuous—and hugely successful—as the Arts&Crafts crew, you’ve got not only the means but the insular support to create and release, unafraid. Amy Millan, luckily, has nothing to be afraid of anyway. The Toronto-born-and-raised, now-Montreal-moonlighting chanteuse released her sophomore solo album, Masters of the Burial, earlier this month, and through laments of her own and some choice covers, she paints another dusty, unabashedly pained-artiste portrait of romantic solitariness.
Masters is immediately quieter and less crisp sounding than 2006’s Ian Blurton–produced Honey from the Tombs, but even through the gentler production, Millan has got the wimpy girlisms in check. Like if Juliana Hatfield wasn’t so (awesomely) indie rock and angry or if Sheryl Crow wasn’t so (boringly) grown-up and redneck, Millan reflects on love and death and the death of love with a haunting resolution that always sounds refreshingly stoic instead of typically vulnerable. Whether she’s paired with Stars’ synth-pop and Morrissey-esque co-vocals (courtesy of the ever-charming and maybe-trantrumed Torquil Campbell) or with a lone beating drum, as in Masters standout “Day to Day” (a Jenny Whiteley cover, streaming above), Millan’s sweet, raspy coo is intact and as warm as ever. The inclusion of her highly circulated cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” makes sense for Millan and the period of time that produced these songs, but it’s a little cheap for the listener, especially when its familiarity takes attention away from the stark, up-alone-until-dawn “Lost Compass” or the respect paid to fellow legit-chick Sarah Harmer’s days in Weeping Tile with a cover of “Old Perfume.” Just in time for wallowing in your inevitable wintertime-wahhh blues.
Haters are going to hate no matter what (not like we would know!), but anyone with the slightest inclination towards non-bubblegum folky girl pop will dig Masters of the Burial. Millan has true talent of her own, but what makes this record most endearing is her eagerness to share not only the experiences that feed her songs, but the other great artists who do, too.