Published Oct 24, 2019There is something to be said for watching an artist come into their own through self-discovery rather than gimmicks or smoke and mirrors. On his debut LP PainKiller — the followup to 2016's Free Dumb EP — City Fidelia puts his city on his back and lives up to the buzz that's been surrounding him for a few years.
The 11-song project is an exploration of coping mechanisms. Across the meticulously curated tracklist, City experiments with vices, relishes in lost love and laments on consequences with the wisdom of an elder statesman.
From alcohol to sex — and/or companionship in general — with the song "Only Girl" being an example, there is a subtle fragility to the set as a whole. It plays out as a series of snapshots of himself at both strong and weak moments.
Balancing this out are songs like the piano-driven "Close Call," two stories in which City finds himself flying too close to the sun (albeit with a stark juxtaposition in danger). They conceptually work to fill in the "why" blank of the painkilling.
Gems like the infectious "It's Not You, It's Me" or the YNR Davinci feature "Can't Sleep" stand tall among the LP cuts that distinguish themselves outside of the narrative; the project's strength ultimately lies in its ability to work as a collective or in non-linear blocks. City's songwriting sparkles, and in putting together a project that solely features verses and production from Ottawa-based talent, he's effectively made himself a beacon in the city.
"Shit is deep and shallow at the same time," a line from the soulful letter to both his little sister and niece on "Take Care," is probably one of the most brilliant ways to sum up the project. There are a few momentary lulls, but overall, PainKiller is not just an excellent introduction to City Fidelia, but a flag-planting for the new sound of Canada's capital. (Independent)