Toronto Goth Rocker Praises Plays Their Cards Right on 'In This Year: Hierophant'

BY Myles TiessenPublished Jun 16, 2022

Jesse Crowe, better known by the appellation Praises, draws a card from a tarot deck at the start of each new year. Crowe uses the randomly selected card as an asomatous thematic guide for personal and creative endeavours. Their 2019 debut album, In This Year: Ten of Swords, followed the criteria laid out by a card representing painful endings, grief, baggage, and ultimately hope.

That album set the stage for Crowe's vision of Praises, a project that dives into the dark and atmospheric inclination ruminating at the centre of endings, termination, and loss. Where Ten of Swords leaned heavily on ominous electronics to reinforce the album's themes, follow-up In This Year: Hierophant takes all those welcomed synthetic textures and incorporates earthly tones, new instrumentation and fresh production to explore personal growth within the confines of tradition. The album is an opaque portrait of humanity painted with cinematic, gothic overtones to brandish themes of despair, greed, and hope.

While the album's thematic direction could be gleaned from its title, Crowe chooses to intentionally obfuscate those expectations by drifting through reflective metaphysical lyrics and mythical, avant-garde instrumentation. By sticking with the broad generalities of tarot, they explore a variety of subjects, never failing to sound fresh and inspired.

The noir-folk "My Condolences" is a hypnotic and transcendental opener. Through an orchestra of synths, bells and flutes, Crowe reflects on self-actualization and rages against a predestined life path. "My Condolences" is a hard-to-decipher story of sexuality and gender that uses enigmatic metaphors to make the track feel like a dream sequence. "My future is nothing to your past," says Crowe softly at the end of the song.

Sonically, In This Year: Hierophant could draw comparisons to artists like Zola Jesus or Portishead, mixed with a bit of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. On album standout "Our Father," Crowe channels the spirit of the latter. Through the sonic hallmarks of a modern Nick Cave album — including the somber grand piano and emotionally intense vocal delivery — Crowe questions the idolization of artists and why our culture so quickly puts faith in fallible men. "I've hitched my nine lives to your skeleton branches," they sing, clearly referencing Cave's 2016 album Skeleton Tree before shouting, "To be disgusted by you / I'd rather your death."

Between the grandness of songs like "Our Father" or "March," Crowe slips into moments of serenity and meditation. The mesmerizing "I Get Lost" features an anesthetic, looping guitar riff and vocal overdubs that build with no intention of leading to any staggering climax. It's an impressive track that appears three-quarters the way through the record and maintains the momentum of its first side, feeling muted and controlled all the while.

In This Year: Hierophant is a slow and meditative listen that gives a desirable amount of time to contemplate its profound messages, building on layers of synths, flutes, and electric guitars that sound as though they are trapped in a dungeon.
(Hand Drawn Dracula)

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