Kincardine may be best known for its wonderful Great Lake swells or as the home of the world’s second largest nuclear plant, but what you may not expect to come out of this Ontario town is modern alt-rock with a midwest emo flair.
Living in Grey Bruce Simcoe means that you’re no stranger to live music. From the experienced country-picking guitarists who have honed their skills at unofficial weekly residencies to the local soulful voices that fill us with the reverberations of infectious movement, there is a wealth of local talent. If you head out in search of music, you’re likely to find a beer-serving venue hosting blues, country, or rock on any given night. However, if you’re someone who appreciates an emotionally driven group vocal that rests atop a series of atmospheric, distortion-driven guitars; the meticulous nature of a well-executed progressive riff; or a tasteful breakdown that drives home a feeling words can’t aptly describe, 21and9’s recent releases from their upcoming album Balloons are most definitely going to stand out to you.
The project’s introductory track Sail On places you in your seat with a full-bodied riff that can be described as something reminiscent of a late nineties or early 2000s alt-rock anthem and immediately works its way into your psyche. As it drives, I feel a familiar sense of joy sweep over me, like the foundation of the musical knowledge the teenager in me laid down is being re-ignited, and I’m about to strap in for a ride that satisfies my nostalgia while making pit-stop departures that tip the hat to the evolution of modern rock.
The pace and early indications of originality tell me that this is a band not held down by the societal pressures of the current musical infrastructure. A mixture of math-rock riffs with immaculately intentional electric tones, upbeat melodic movement that sticks to my brain, and an overall fresh sound; creates a genre-melding rock project that listeners can really dig into. Work like this exemplifies a refreshing pursuit of original sound—something that stands out amidst a sea of 30-second video clickbait, feigning transparency in search of overnight stardom. Truly, it just feels good to listen to a band that sat down with real songs to make a real record.
The EP’s second track, Because of You, feels like an alt-ballad of admission and reflection. Throughout the track, Rob Edwards’ catchy vocal melody carries us through painfully relatable scenarios of relationships that have affected us negatively and left us wondering who we are, what we stand for, and what our perception of ourselves is. I listen, as the carefully crafted story unravels, to the building undertone that is impending, until finally it happens. The song’s chorus is nothing if not an invitation to sing-along with the powerful backing vocals of Dane Dunlop (drums), Zach Brajuha (lead guitar), and John Culbert (bass) as they support the primary melody in accomplishing its task of shouting the kind of words that are often held close to the chest, never to see the light of day. In freeing musical moments like this, we’re reminded of the power that music holds to shine light on dark areas.
21and9 worked with Juno Award-winning producer Siegfried Meier to lay down the bed tracks for a full album before returning home to complete the project with producer Mike Abercrombie, who is known for his work with artist Plaza, who was signed to Drake’s label OVO. The first four songs from Balloons were released in anticipation of multiple large summer concerts and tease the final five tracks that are on their way and will make up the remainder of their debut LP.
I recommend getting in your car, popping on the initial four tracks, and taking a drive to fully experience Sail On, Because of You, We Could Give Up, and Some Nightmare . To give the album a listen, click here.
Words by Marshall Veroni
Feature photo by Jamie Edwards
Concert photos by Phil Main
Cover art by Mike Abercrombie