Sound Advice: Crush by Art Imperial
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Sound Advice: Crush by Art Imperial

Eclectic production, '50s-inspired vocals, and heartache from one of Toronto's most interesting young singers.

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On his third release, local singer Art Imperial combines ‘50s doo-wop and ‘80s alt-rock to create a raw, heart-wrenching, remarkably listenable work of emotional honesty.

Crush is the third part of Imperial’s “Cycles of Love” trilogy. His debut EP, Surf Suburban, was about the rapturous joy of being in love, while last year’s Cult of Love was about heartbreak. Crush, as the title might imply, is about the act of falling in love—the early, awkward phases where you’re forcing yourself to open up to another person. Imperial does a great job of capturing this fragile, apprehensive state with his vocals.

The opening track, “Don’t You Want to Go Out?” is the perfect marriage of melancholy, melodic tenor vocals and reverb-drenched guitars. “Slower” starts soft and stripped down, with Imperial coming across reserved over a hypnotic guitar riff and simple kick-and-snare drum beat, but builds to an impressive climax as he wails his heartache away.

“Backseat” may be the most interesting song on the album. Imperial’s smooth vocals are laid over a weird, slightly creepy synth track that sounds like it may have been made with some kind of circuit bending. If you want a song that’s able to make you uncomfortable while still being beautiful, this is it. (You can listen to “Backseat” by clicking on the sample above.)

Imperial is one of Toronto’s most unique musical talents. He manages to bridge classic doo-wop, indie rock, and even R&B in a way that no one else has. Hopefully, Crush will be the album that causes him to get the love he so badly deserves.