Most people probably associate Arts & Crafts records with indie rock, particularly of the Broken Social Scene mold: lots of guitars, vaguely post-rockish, all in some way featuring people who’ve played on a Broken Social Scene record. However, lately they’ve been going in some new directions.
Just last month, Arts & Crafts quietly released an EP I Killed Sara V. by an artist called Lowell, aka Elizabeth Lowell Boland. It arrived with a bare minimum of fanfare; no exclusive-to-NPR stream, no cross-country tours. When Noisey wrote about her, they showed just two upcoming gigs. I Killed Sara V. almost surely slipped by you in February, but it’s more than worth checking out.
Lowell’s been around: she comes from Calgary, but has spent time around Canada, even staying in the Yukon for a spell. Lately, she’s been mostly in Toronto and recording with an interesting group of musicians: Apparatjik, the supergroup made from parts of Coldplay, A-ha, and Mew. In late 2012 she was prominently featured on their EP If You Can, Solve This Jumble.
All the songs I Killed Sara V. sound remarkably polished for someone’s first record. Maybe that has something to do with the help credited here: there’s some interesting names on this record. Sacha Skarbek, for example, is a songwriter who’s worked with artists like Lana Del Ray, Adele and Miley Cyrus and co-wrote Wrecking Ball.
“Cloud 69” kicks off the record with a sleazy electro dance beat, with Lowell punctuating the chorus via coughs and shouts. It’s a fun track, maybe my favourite on I Killed Sara V. “88” is another one I enjoyed: banging on a piano over a driving beat, she asks the listener if they’re faithful and promises to take away the pain from a broken relationship.
As a whole, I Killed Sara V. starts off as a banger and gradually slows down: by EP’s end, she’s singing over an acoustic piano on the title cut. The last two songs show her more mellow side with interesting results. “Palm Trees” contrasts the splendor of California with a broken relationship (“You were always one step behind from me, waiting for a palm tree.”). The title track “I Killed Sara V. “has her lamenting over a death, sounding shattered (“I lose myself with your body beside me,” she sings) and maybe suicidal.
I Killed Sara V. is an interesting debut from someone who’s trying her hand at a few different styles: there’s such a shift in tone between “Cloud 69” and the title track that jumping between them is a little jarring. That said, play it all the way through and it works just fine. And when she connects, she hits hard.
At just five songs, it’s a little too short to make any solid claims about how great she may or may not be. But it’s a nice sample of her music and it’s got me more than little anxious for when her debut LP, tentatively titled We Loved Her Dearly, finally drops. Give this one a spin and see if you aren’t, too.
Freelance writer and music fan, whose writing has appeared on The Good Point, The Toronto Review of Books, and CTV.ca, among other places. Favorite albums: Dig Me Out, Live-Evil, Decade.