Deep within Calgary's tight-knit music community, Chris Austman and Nils Mikkelsen craft immaculate pop songs occasionally heard live — more frequently last year, after the band were nominated for a JUNO Award for their debut full-length, A Life Well Lived.
That album was available as early as late 2014, so it's taken the duo considerable time to perfect Rise & Shine, a brief yet compelling listen. Its strength hinges on the warmth of Austman's vocals and the skilled production he and Mikkelsen employ to make music that feels personal and universal at once.
Kicking off with the bouncing synth pop of "Already Gone," "Sleight of Hand" establishes the duo's power. The rhythms shift amongst dark themes, as Austman alludes to the use of propaganda: "Barely conscious / I've been trying to figure out what they want with us / Is it more about the sound than the thought or the feeling?" Lyrically, there's a feeling of unease that runs through tracks such as "Burn Cycle Part 2," clashing with its Hot Chip-esque dance beat in a way that feels apt given today's emotional landscape: "Burn cycle run through whatever you've gone and done / I know what this is and I know where you live."
Elongated beats and vocal harmonies serve the band well on "Anything," a multilayered, piano-inflected ballad. As one of the lengthier songs on the record, it finds the band stretching out. "Oh Delilah" is outstanding, driven simply by Austman's smooth vocals, synths and beats. Its devotional longing forges an emotional connection with the listener.
AM Static are a gem within the rich Canadian music scene, a band that have followed up their JUNO nomination with nuanced work deserving of further praise. The duo's pop songs seek to find beauty amidst uncertain times, using intimate lyrics and enveloping music. (Independent)