If Kate Bush and Frank Zappa had a lovechild, it might just be Toronto's Ronley Teper, who has spent years bringing her quirky jams to audiences the world over. Known for filling stages with a dozen musicians at a time — all of them heavy hitters — her live shows feel like they just unfold as they may, with Teper keeping no more than a light touch on the rudder, then layering her imaginative songwriting and singing overtop.
On this new recording, that energy is on full display. Recorded live at The Piston over two nights in 2015, The Game is a perfect sampling of what you might hear at a Lipliners show. Some tracks, like the instrumental "Allison is Dancing," are pleasant forays into what a bunch of good musicians can do with a simple chord progression. Others are poppier, like "Bye Bye," which is almost reminiscent of a Prince song with its soulful vocals and horn fills stacked on top of Rhodes piano riffs.
Then you have numbers like "A Farm Song (From a Rooster's POV)" and "Titties," delightfully bizarre forays into Teper's silliness. Her hilarious lyrics are paired with theatrical vocal delivery, ranging from her high, squeaky, little-girl voice to a low, throaty growl. It's territory not commonly explored by female singers, but Teper has never been reined in by the standards of vocal prettiness (even if she dabbles in it now and then). So, it's only fitting that Mary Margaret O'Hara makes a guest appearance on this album, since she's surely the grand dame of this kind of playful vocal experimentation.
Featuring a veritable who's who of Toronto musicians, including Tim Posgate (fiddle and banjo), Roman Tomé (percussion), Charles James (bass), Karen Ng (saxophone) and Beth Washburn (mini tuba), The Game is a joyful, exploratory cacophony of sound, and it's guaranteed to make you want to see the Lipliners live. (Independent)