Best Vancouver albums of 2015

Neu BalanceNeu Balance – Rubber Sole
Listen: “Better Off Alone”

One of the year’s first is also one of the year’s best. 1080p kicked off their banner year with Neu Balance’s debut, Rubber Sole.

The album’s title completely plays into the duo of Sam Beatch and Sebastian Davidson’s kicks-obsessed, pun-loving imagery. But Rubber Sole‘s accessibility is deceiving. Through humour, they draw attention to the insalubrious effects of consumerism. Perhaps Rubber Sole‘s most ardent commentators aren’t off the mark in assessing the album’s almost Pop Art boldness as accelerationist.

On a less philosophical level, Rubber Sole bends and wrinkles in ways that deviate from typical dance music form, even by standards of minimalist dance music. A weariness (and wariness) pervades the album. Clipped vocals pitched so low that they’re devoid of human essence surface throughout Rubber Sole. One automaton urges listeners to “buy a house. A new house” on “Better Off Alone”. The only vocal utterances that don’t sound lifeless are the deflated grunts on the same track, but only insofar as they seep out contagiously like yawns.

Ambience diffuses into plentiful sparse passages that would likely be filled by beats in more predictable songs. In fluid about-faces, though, apprehension creeps over calmness. The tension is soft, but it encroaches with greater intensity over repeated listens.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu