Arts in Review

Nicole Jasper’s april reminds us to listen up



The modern music landscape is dotted by a surprising amount of lo-fi releases, even going so far as to affect releases published under labels. That this trend (if it can even be called a trend at this point, since it shows no sign of waning) has garnered such support within its own small community, is perhaps the latest wave of recycling trends of years past. It’s impossible not to think of more lo-fi new wave acts like Sonic Youth when confronted with the not-quite-pop, not-quite-punk, not-quite-anything independent releases that permeate the internet music library.

Vancouver-based Nicole Jasper has, wittingly or not, tapped into that same stream of music production. “strawberry blonde,” the first track on april, although ethereal, recalls the kind of hazy, washed-out production synonymous with Elvis Depressedly or, on the rock side of things, Car Seat Headrest’s early recordings. What’s more interesting than the aesthetic qualities of the recording, is that there seems to be emerging a kind of dissociation from markers used to traditionally determine value in music production. Sure, that’s literally all punk aimed to do, but what records like april seem to do, is stack themselves up against the refined production standards of pop music. Where this leads, it seems, is not so much an affront on the mode which is achieved by pop music (because by its very definition as “popular,” the genre reveals itself to be as transient as trends in the fashion industry), but to the opening up of an alternative. Where punk perhaps struck back against the homogenization of popular music, Jasper’s april occupies a space apart from the pop/not pop scale.

It is not so much oppositional as much as it is escapist.

What’s more, there are tracks on april, such as “cough syrup,” which are as defined by genre lines as the pop on top 40 charts. It may not be Bob Dylan’s brand of folk, and it may be depressive in tone and lyrical content, but it’s a blues-based confessional. The difference is that there’s next to no forethought given to the refinement of the recording. The song itself is unassuming in form, which is to say that it does not force itself on the listener in the same way that punk, or some early rap, or even (it could be argued) modern pop does.

Representative perhaps of a less-energetic behavioural state in a society that, through its focus on technology and trends emphasizes and rewards brashness, releases like april might, in the long run, prove to be more than the diary-entry-turned-song that they are derided as by some.

Constantly, we’re being reminded to look inwards and take care of ourselves, our mental well-being, and our health. Artists like Jasper seem to be doing so by taking the performative function out of music production. Here’s hoping that it allows us to better understand one another. april reminds us that instead of focusing on how we can connect better, we ought to focus on how we can listen better.

Do that, and connection will follow.

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