Best Vancouver Albums of 2014

johnny de courcy

Johnny de Courcy – Alien Lake
Neptoon Records
Listen: “I Can’t Be That Man”

Johnny de Courcy has long demonstrated an ear for pop music. His debut solo LP, 2012’s Johnny de Courcy and the Death Rangers, is full of catchy, straight-ahead guitar-rock. And while Death Rangers contains a few unexpected bends, like “Waltz #3/Sunrise” (which sounds exactly like the name suggests), unexpected bends are moreso the norm on his follow-up, Alien Lake.

Naturally, there is room for de Courcy to grow, and he’ll likely do so in surprising ways. But he has already nearly perfected his song-craft on Alien Lake, expanding his tunes to reflect his hard metal past in bands like Black Wizard and Toronto’s Skull Fist. Harsh, scintillating breakdowns interrupt the groovy riff on “Turkish Freakout”. And even without explicitly metal influences cutting through, Alien Lake is undeniably harder-edged than Death Rangers. Songs like “Jeff” find de Courcy ditching his singing voice for a screechy, pained yell. Yet Alien Lake also features some of his tenderest material to date, such as the instrumental solo piano title-track and the ballad “1000 People”.

Alien Lake marks a major turning point for Johnny de Courcy both as a highly personal album that offers portraits of his many dynamic personalities and as the keystone for future multimedia projects. He and director Owen Ellis have released a conceptually linked pair of videos for “Alien Lake” and “Wind Chimes”, and de Courcy has mentioned plans to create a large scale stage production based on the album, which will hopefully be ready in time for his summer Asian tour. It’s sometimes difficult to tell if he’s joking (these sorts of grand fancies seem in line with his sense of humour), but regardless, knowing his ambitiousness, no one should be surprised if 2015 becomes his breakout year.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu