Tag Archives: The Luyas

February 26, 2017 — “Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas

The Luyas

The Luyas

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas (2017, from the album Human Voicing).

The Luyas is an experimental indie rock/krautrock quartet from Toronto. They formed in 2006, and released their debut record Faker Death the next year. They followed with Too Beautiful to Work in 2011 and Animator in 2012. It’s always pointed out, and I’ll do it again, that Luyas frontwoman Jessie Stein, with her small, soft, mildly squeaky voice, sounds VERY MUCH like the late Trish Keenan out of Broadcast. Their music is also reminiscent of stuff like Broadcast and Stereolab.

Way back before I started writing this blog, I called Too Beautiful to Work my third favourite Canadian album of 2011. The next year, over on this blog, I called Animator my fourth favourite album of 2012.

The band took a hiatus after touring with Animator, and to be honest, I didn’t think about them very often during that hiatus. Last year, they finally emerged from their hibernation with an EP called Says You, but it slipped totally under my radar. This year, I was very excited when I learned that they had a new record, which just came out on February 24. I got my ears on a copy of Human Voicing, and it’s everything that I hoped it would be. The first time I listened to the new album, I listened through crappy car stereo speakers, and I really loved it. I was really blown away by tonight’s song, which I had to play again and again and again before moving on to the album’s third song. Now that I’ve had time, I’ve also listened to it on headphones, and of course I like it a lot better that way.

It’s a gloriously noisy piece with a nice motorik beat and some interesting stuff going on in the stereo field. It’s definitely worth your while to listen to this on a quality set of headphones or earbuds. I’ve said that about every record by The Luyas, and I’m not ashamed that I’ve said it again.

I love all eight songs on the new record, but this is the one that got me the most excited. This is that song.

“Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas

It sounds a little bit like it’s been taken out of context; the way the song starts so abruptly sounds like it might be a cross-fade from the previous song. However, that’s just the way the song is. It’s meant to have that jolt. It gets a bit noisy and chaotic, and then at about 0:34, there’s another sudden jolt into the main part of the song. I absolutely love the buzzy synth and the motorik drum bit that pairs with Stein’s nifty bass part. There’s some other percussion mixed in and a lot of other stuff mixed in that almost turns into a wall of sound. It may be a tiny bit chaotic, but I adore the beautiful noise.

Just when you think it might go on for a bit longer, it comes to full stop after a chorus. Again, it’s a bit jarring, but I love it. A lot.

Just as the previous two records did, I imagine this one will finish in at least the top 10 of my year-end list. I know I never published one from 2016, but I’m definitely going to in 2017.

There’s an official video, but I really prefer this live performance video, which is considerably less noisy:

You can order the album via Bandcamp here. They have several different format options, including digital, CD, and a limited edition hot pink vinyl.


February 21 — “Cold Canada” by The Luyas

The Luyas

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Cold Canada” by The Luyas (2011, from the album Too Beautiful to Work).
The Luyas are an experimental indie-rock band from MontrĂ©al who were founded in 2006 and have released two albums so far. They have just this week started recording their third album. Last year’s Too Beautiful to Work put them on the map and ended up on a lot of year-end lists. I called it my third favourite Canadian album from 2011, and it made the Polaris long list.

Singer and guitarist Jessie Stein sings exactly like Broadcast singer Trish Keenan, who tragically passed away at the age of 41 last January after a short battle against pneumonia. Those comparisons were already being made, but they’ve become eerie and creepy since Keenan’s death.

Stein also plays in Miracle Fortress, while two of the other members of The Luyas also play in Bell Orchestre. On Too Beautiful to Work they got some help from a lot of other Canadian musicians including saxophone genius Colin Stetson.

I haven’t heard the first Luyas record, but from what I’ve read, the first and second records sound nothing alike. The first was more indie rock while the second is more experimental. Not just because of the Jessie Stein/Trish Keenan thing, but from a musical standpoint, it’s easy to compare Too Beautiful to Work to Broadcast’s Ha Ha Sound (2003). I also think it “sounds like” the His Name is Alive record Mouth by Mouth(1993).

I think it’s probably better when listened to as an entire album, but there are a few songs that stand alone just fine. Today’s song is one of them.

“Cold Canada” by The Luyas

This song has a lot of different textures. A lot of different sounds and tones coming from some keyboards, some (maybe sythesized) stringed instruments, and some electronic instruments that I can’t identify. I like, though, that it’s all blended together to make a nice milkshake with big chunks of delicious stuff.

One of the unique things about this band is that Stein plays a moodswinger, which is a custom-made zither with 12 strings, complex tuning and some moveable parts that stringed instuments aren’t supposed to have. I have no idea what any of that stuff means in the Wikipedia article. I can gather, though, that it makes some bell-like tones and some piano-like tones. I’m sure she’s playing it in this song, but I can’t say for sure which bits are it.

I can’t really work out the lyrics other than “Whatever horizon, snow will always win” and “We’re gonna lose”, but I don’t think that it matters much. I’d love to be proven wrong on that point, but I’m guessing that the lyrics are less important than the music. Here’s an article from one year ago in which the author suggests that it’s about the folly of assuming after a couple of unseasonably warm days that spring is here when in fact winter still has her icy grip on Canada. You can’t fight or outsmart mother nature. It may or may not be about that, but I’m not listening to this song for the lyrics. I love the music.

Buy your copy of Too Beautiful to Work using the Dead Oceans/Secretly Canadian website here.


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