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.
Kae Sun is a sweaty-palmed label exec’s worst nightmare. According to his website, the Ghana-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter is invested in creating “raw and non-commoditized artistic experiences” aimed at sharing important messages rather than reaping serious coin. His new five-song EP, Outside the Barcode, as its title suggests, is one such experience. To boot, it’s free.
Inspired by Sun’s return to his motherland after living in Canada for nine years, the EP marks a bold stylistic strip-down for the usually eclectic songsmith. Whereas his debut full-length, Lion on a Leash (URBNET), leapfrogged between Western soul, Afrobeat, reggae, and socially conscious hip-hop, Outside the Barcode sees him strap on an acoustic and get his Dylan on. Recorded entirely to two-inch tape in a secluded Ontario farmhouse, these are intimate soul-folk telltales of hope, agony, freedom, and love. On opener “Firefly Dance,” he recounts reconnecting with his roots via blood-warm croons and nimble finger-picking, while on spirited Marley-esque anthem “When the Pot,” he rallies for the liberation of Africa, calling out the “legislators who fake the change” and the “freedom fighters only in it for glory.” Shit, Sun.
Though this EP only features Sun plucking away at five strings, it displays madcap versatility. Besides the hushed ballads and protest songs, “Interlude” experiments with Daniel Lanois–like echo and delay effects (courtesy of producers Joshua Sadlier-Brown and Marc Koecher). Meanwhile, “Weh-Weh” (streaming above) provides the record’s most uptempo moment, inducing headbanging with nothing more than hand-claps and caffeinated strumming. But it’s Sun’s untethered conviction—both lyrical and emotional—that shines the most on this project. These redemption songs won’t be used to peddle cell phones anytime soon.