Leah Fay

REVIEW: July Talk – Pray For It (2020)

JULY TALK – Pray For It (2020 Sleepless Records)

You can’t put July Talk in a box.  As soon as you do, they’ve climbed out the top and are exploring the ground around them.  “I wanna be transformed,” sings Pete Dreimanis and Leah Fay on the first track.  And their wish is made true by their efforts.  The melodic pleasures of 80s pop rock hits shines through on Pray For It.  Less screaming, more whispering.  No fear to just let the melody breathe.

The pulse of synth on “Identical Love” creates a dusky atmosphere, punctuated by quiet sax.  Only the vocals of Peter and Leah easily identify it as July Talk.  A quiet and melodic hit, “Identical Love” pulls at the heart while setting a mood.  Following the 80s template, “Good Enough” has an upbeat summery vibe, sounding like a sibling to hits you remember from youth.

The first emphasis on guitar comes with a cool, spare riff on “Life of the Party”, but the direction remains the same:  a synth backbone, with a quiet understated arrangement. Leah Fay’s vocal is the melodic anchor of this excellent slow burning track with bonus riff.  Peter takes center stage on “Pretender”, showcasing his rougher lower voice.  This time the arrangement is traditional rock band stuff with guitars, bass and drums jamming as they do.  Then it’s back to a more electronic atmospheric style on “Pay For It”, augmented by piano and breezy, humming sounds.

Unexpectedly “Pay For It” perfectly sets up the soul singin’ of “Champagne”.  Guest vocalists James Baley and Kyla Charter deliver on this one, with an undeniable hook and legitimate soul.  The massive melodic majesty of “Champagne” makes it a clear album centerpiece (and it just so happens to occupy the center slot in the track listing).

A light, quirky “Friend of Mine” sounds like something that originated in the 1960s if not for the reference to “my mother in the next room, gambling on computer screens”.  But this gentle duet lies in the shadow of the smashing “The News”:  pure pop rock perfection sung solely by Leah Fay, with timely lyrics.  “Gimme context, without context everything is true,” sings Leah.  It’s truly a remarkable song.  The crashing guitars and chiming chords that July Talk have kept in reserve until now are well served by a perfect song.  Vocals, lyrics, melody, and arrangement come together in a flawless 3:39.  Listen carefully to the voices in the noise, meticulously mixed in as part of the pleasure.

Headlining the closing three songs, “Governess Shadow” is one of the singles, and has an upbeat Bosstones-like vibe only without the horns.  “See You Thru” has a haunting quality, like closing time at the bar, while somebody’s mopping the floor and putting the chairs up on the tables.  Then the album closes on the digital heartbeat of “Still Sacred”, almost a coda to the whole thing.

There’s a sense of painstaking assembly to the songs on Pray For It.  The impression is that a lot of time and inner soul went into the arrangements.  Each song sounds like it was meticulous assembled.  Maybe that’s a bi-product of a band with two vocalists singing lead simultaneously; maybe the music has to be arranged meticulously.  July Talk are hands-on when it comes to details like their artwork, music videos and performances.  It makes sense the same attention to detail would be in the bones of their songs as well.

4.5/5 stars

Sunday Screening: July Talk – “The News”

I had a really good funny, hard rockin’ Sunday Screening for you lined up. Then Youtube took down the video Saturday morning. I hate when that happens!

So: Plan B! I’ve been listening to the new album Pray For It by July Talk lately.  Their latest video “The News” dropped a couple months ago, and it’s fantastic enough to deserve your Sunday Screening time of 3 minutes and 47 seconds.

July Talk are very hands-on with their videos. Singers Pete Dreimanis and Leah Fay have director credits while Dreimanis is listed as a producer.  “The News” is one of their most striking and entertaining clips yet, topical and catchy.  Check it out!

if only everything that happened in our dreams were true and nothing bad could ever happen to you when we feel too much we’d just wake up
and all the longing to belong would always be enough
gimme context, without context everything is true
only nothing that happens only happens to you

if the news should ever break our way
will we still hear the truth of someone that’s been left behind
and if truth should ever be unkind
will we still know that everything that’s true is by design
and that everything that’s true is ours to find

i woke up i was the same but all my dreams had died
what fucking happened?
guess everyone who spoke in tongues had lied
in the lobby watched the dawning of a different side
gimme context, without context everything is true
besides nothing that happens only happens to you

if the news should ever break our way
would we still hear the truth of someone that’s been left behind
and if truth should ever be unclear
will we still know that everything that’s fair is hard to hear
and that everything breaks down in love and fear

everything that happens
everything that happens
everything that happens

if the news should ever break our way
will we still hear the truth of someone that’s been left behind
and if truth should ever be unkind
will we still know that everything that’s true is by design
and that everything that’s true’s hard to define
and that everything that’s true is ours to find

what fucking happened?

REVIEW: July Talk – Touch (2016 vinyl)

JULY TALK – Touch (2016 Sleepless Records)

Surely one of the most exciting bands to emerge from Toronto in the last few years has been July Talk.  Defying categorization, they’re often lumped in with “blues rock” and “indie”, neither of which really describe July Talk.  You could also call them “art rock” because July Talk truly treat their music as high-energy art.  Loud art.

July Talk are a five piece rock band known for their volatile live shows where anything can happen.  Lead singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay offer a contrast, he of the gravel voice and she as the smooth one.  They songs are like battles between characters, little stories with Fay and Dreimanis playing the parts.  Dreimanis and bassist Josh Warburton have also entered the visual world, with each directing some of July Talk’s most interesting music videos.*

Picture yourself in a tangle with another, you’ll feel your body awaken.  That’s the opening lyric to “Picturing Love” but also apt listening advice.  Some of these songs sound like the act of sex in motion, limbs tangled and struggling to get free.  On “Picturing Love”, Leah Fay contrasts Dreimanis’ grit with a sassy vocal.  “I suppose, I’ll strike pose…”  A band is usually lucky to have one memorable front person.  July Talk have two and that’s their secret weapon.  “Picturing Love” is one of three singles.  Another is the next track “Beck + Call”, a bass-heavy groove that hits with body blows.  Dreimanis screams “She loves me, she loves me not!” while Leah Fay floats above it.

Things get dancey on “Now I Know”, a track which recalls certain aspects of the 1980s and a little bit of U2.  Fay takes the center stage with an irresistible shouted chorus.  We go punky on the brilliant “Johnny + Mary”.  Fay has a punky sass that she employs with pure attitude.  Meanwhile the band chug away on some heavy riffing.  One lick even sounds like an Iron Maiden melody.  A dusky ballad called “Strange Habit” closes the first side.  This delicate song shows that July Talk can do it quietly too, and successfully.

If you have not heard the first single from Touch, “Push + Pull”, do so now.  A slinky groove turns into a battering ram.  “Push + Pull” is a great representation of the July Talk sound.  Whether you are dancing or thrashing, “Push + Pull” will work for ya.

“Lola + Joseph” rests on a spare but killer guitar hook.  Fay and Dreimanis trade off vocals seamlessly, as things get hot.  “But I’ve never done this, can you show me please,” pleads Dreimanis during one sexy exchange.  “Just count to five, not too fast,” whispers Fay in response.   “Lola + Joseph” is the hidden gem on this album.  It’s the nice little surprise that you get for playing the album through.  It’s just killer.  Leah Fay goes for a new wave punky snarl on “So Sorry”, another brilliant and loud track.  “Jesus Said So” has a completely different vibe, more like classic 50s doo-wop in a modern song.  Closing with a haunting song, the last is the title track “Touch”.  Piano is the main feature as it builds to a dramatic close.

Check this band out.  Touch is only their second album.  Time to get on board!

5/5 stars

* “Guns + Ammunition” directed by Warburton is one of the coolest technical achievements in a music video you’ll ever see.  Check it out below.