FONTINE Introduces Herself on the Enchanting 'Yarrow Lover' EP

BY Myles TiessenPublished Feb 8, 2023

FONTINE has quietly been a key player in the Manitoba folk scene for what feels like ages now. A natural collaborator, she's worked with an unlimited number of artists but, most notoriously, has been the long-time first mate to country-rock/good vibes evangelist Boy Golden, supporting him with her stunning vocals and charismatic stage presence. 

With her sails set wing on wing, FONTINE hits the open waters and embarks on her first solo endeavor with the wondrous Yarrow Lover EP. It's a moody and elegant slice of indie folk-pop that draws on connections from her Cree heritage and uses both literal and metaphorical landscapes as the backdrop for the song's pensive narratives. 

FONTINE has a penchant for associating romance with the natural world. The most obvious examples are "Nature Song" or the literal title of the EP, but there are more subtle and compelling associations throughout all of Yarrow Lover, whether it be lyrics like, "The rains remind me how you said / You didn't care about the weather anyhow" on "4AM" or the rustic and earthy banjo on "This Mess." It's a satisfying thematic thread that makes Yarrow Lover a pleasure to get lost in. 

Regardless of FONTINE's connection with the dynamics of nature, her real strength as a songwriter is her skeptical romanticism. Look no further than Yarrow Lover's opening track "Homemaker," where dreams of moving to an acreage and talks of easy love set the stage for what seems like a reasonably straightforward love song. 

However, as the song evolves, so does the depth of FONTINE's lyrics, circling the concepts of selfhood and romantic love with a tactful hesitancy. "I'm changing into something new / I don't recognize myself in the mirror / And there's nothing you could do for me that would make this any clearer / Still I'm confused / I've lost myself." The song never settles one way or the other as the hypnotic beat and soaring melodies drift out, leaving the uncertainty with you for eternity. It's a testament to FONTINE's ability to write striking material that's shaded with unexpected depth, lifting it beyond the trappings of typical singer-songwriter fare. 

Other songs on Yarrow Lover don't necessarily explore their own concepts with as much reflective maturity as "Homemaker." One fault of the EP could be its dependency on emotionally candid lyrics. With so much honest vulnerability, some moments on Yarrow Lover start to hit some boilerplate lyrical cues. "When we woke up / We laid in your bed / And we stayed there all day" from "Fleet Ave" or even "I wish I had her back / But I can't change that" being the final lyrics of the EP. 

Regardless of any small lyrical quibbles, what makes Yarrow Lover such an addictive listen is its sound. Stunning vocals, soft acoustic guitars and washed-out synths provide a rich sense of warmth and comfort; FONTINE clearly had a vision of what this debut statement would sound like, and it was executed masterfully. 

Co-produced by Kris Ulrich and mixed by Boy Golden, FONTINE and her closest collaborators prove to be at the stylistic forefront of Manitoba's continuously morphing folk-rock scene, with their restrained producorial instincts perfectly suited to Yarrow Lover's understated but powerful writing. The best example of this is the sun-soaked title track, built with such affecting atmosphere that you can't help but be at ease in FONTINE's breezy, golden-hour melody. 

One particularly arresting moment is the use of vocal processing in "4AM." As the song reaches a climax, background harmonies swell, and FONTINE cuts through with some Poliça-style distortion. Whatever fascinating production shenanigans they got up to on Yarrow Lover really helps break up the EP and give each song its own identity.

Yarrow Lover is an ideal soundtrack for just about any moment, its carefully calibrated highs and lows suited to an array of big feelings. It could be a leisurely sunny morning, a car ride through the countryside, an evening spent alone with your thoughts, a dinner with friends — the intensity of FONTINE's emotionally charged lyrics and beautiful production make it an excellent introduction to a profoundly hard-working musician. 

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