Carla and Lynette Gillis are one of Canada's most enduring musical partnerships. The Cape Breton-bred, Toronto-based sisters first made their mark as part of the perennially beloved East Coast '90s group Plumtree and later in the pop-punk band Absolutely Nothing. In Toronto, they formed SISTER, and have now launched their latest incarnation, Overnight. A major influence upon the sisters' musical development was their older (and cool-as-hell sounding, by their press release's account) sister Darlene, who weaned them on her Iron Maiden and Guns n' Roses records at an early age and once took the 11-year-old girls to an Alice Cooper concert in Halifax. Darlene died in a car accident in 2008, and her passing has irrevocably marked the sisters' artistic output since. Overnight's debut record, Carry Me Home, is a major entry in the Gillis canon: It's a passionate tribute to the classic rock and metal that fuelled their upbringing, and it also serves as a beautiful exploration of memory, mourning and that ineffable connection to the ghosts of loved ones lost.
The album's first track, "Unsinkable," (produced by Joel Plaskett) opens with a groovy riff and segues into the sisters' hauntingly choral "ohs." It's an interesting contrast, the mix between textbook classic metal and high, sweet choral voices — a bit like hearing Black Sabbath led by choirgirls in a cathedral — and it works really well. The rest of the album has producer Alaska B (drummer, co-director and engineer for Yamantaka//Sonic Titan) at the helm. As someone who's no stranger to soaring heavy music with a beating heart, she's a perfect choice for this material: Lynette's drums ring crystal clear, the guitars are crisp and crunchy and the sisters' voices (led by Carla) pipe pure and clear above it all. The record also expertly weaves in and out of various genres and moods, with nods to George Harrison-styled psych on the trippy backwards guitar solo at the end of "Root of Gone" and a sweet and bracing piano piece, "Duet."
Lyrically, these songs are wonderfully crafted too, with "Showed Up on the Beach" bringing a particularly evocative sense of place: "There was a bracing wind / and stinging salt / waves crashing so loud / I couldn't hear my thoughts," Carla sings, taking us immediately to the lonely, awesome precipice of a Maritime cliff face. The album's mid-album standout, "It Gets You Down," frames grief's enduring grip within an addictively tuneful package: "It gets you down when you think about it," Carla sings, and the song pounds beneath her, poppy and kinetic. Overnight have achieved a tricky feat in translating the enduring ache of loss into such an infinitely hummable earworm. I still can't stop singing it.
That's the truly lovely thing about Carry Me Home; it's a heavy record, both sonically and lyrically, but it never feels weighty or overwhelming in its despair. Instead, you get the sense that the sisters are experiencing a deep sense of catharsis and spiritual growth through this music; it's healing through headbanging. (Independent)