Toronto-based Shay is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist; Lost In It is her latest EP release. For the album, Shay sang and played various woodwinds. Her rock-solid backing band includes Kierna Smyth (guitar), Brent Webb (bass) and Daniel Pavkeje (drums). The group delivers a strong set of well-crafted, lushly executed folk-pop which is an easy, enjoyable listen.
“Summer Song” kicks off the four-song set. The mid-tempo track opens with twangy, open-chord guitar with some alterations borrowed from the jazz canon. Shay’s vocals are up front and evoke a bit melancholia. The band shows nice dynamic control, moving smoothly from spare, quieter verses into louder, fuller choruses. The highlight is Shay’s terrific saxophone solo, which builds its melody from a low, introspective start to a rousing finish. “Summer Song” is a great start, and lets us know that we are in for a special treat.
Shay moves a bit more uptempo with “Ruins” up next. Her saxophone pairs with Smyth’s acoustic guitar at the start. Again, the band builds dynamics from the first verse into the first chorus, where layered woodwinds add glorious texture. For the second verse, we get a surprise treat: little licks and fills are played by the flute, which is unexpected, and works marvelously. Shay takes things even further on the second chorus, where the orchestration would make Van Morrison proud. But wait, there’s more--Shay rips another sax solo, and then breaks the whole song down (in radio-friendly pop fashion) before bringing it to its final climax. It’s a tour de force of arrangement, all in three-and-a-half minutes.
And there’s no time to catch our breath, as Shay’s vocals are right on us in “Frayed.” This is a sweet, almost Beatles-y track, driven by arpeggiated triplet guitar with woodwinds fluttering around. Her vocals carry the day here; she claims singing is out of her comfort zone, but this listener isn’t buying it. She’s not hiding behind anything here, and she doesn’t need to.
The title track closes the EP. Shay starts where she left off on “Frayed” employing just acoustic guitar and vocals. Then the layers come: vocals and woodwinds--again, Van Morrison would be proud--over a spare guitar line. Over the last minute, the track builds, builds, builds, with Shay showing off all of her myriad skills in orchestration and performance, until we reach a satisfying conclusion.
Lost In It was Shay’s fourth-year project. I hope her teachers gave her an A. If not, have them call me, and I’ll set them straight. Recommended!
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