iM Exclusive/Stream: WENDY VERSUS – Crayon Wars
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Beginning with the sort of MIDI key tones one expects to find in an 16-bit era video game, Crayon Wars – the debut LP from Toronto-based electro-pop trio WENDY VERSUS – features some belting vocal work, infectious synth lines, and honestly some of the tightest production work I’ve heard on a debut LP to date.
Though considering the musicianship/production backgrounds of frontwoman/keyboardist/vocalist Wendy Leung (PAPERMAPS), guitarist Dean Marino (PAPERMAPS, TIN STAR ORPHANS, CHEMICAL SOUND), and bassist/percussionist Owen Norquay (SOI DISANT, CLOUDS THAT LOOK LIKE THINGS, LSD SPIDER, L’AFFUMER, B’MO CRAZY) I can’t honestly say that I’m surprised in the slightest.
Recorded over an extended period of time with close friend Cameron Harding at the helm, the final product really shows that WENDY VERSUS are truly getting ready to unleash a labour of love with Crayon Wars. The opening three tracks on the release have been kicking around on the net for some time now as a sort of prelude EP to the full-length release, so if you frequent music websites (which I’m assuming you do…) you may have caught a teaser already.
Opener White Noise invokes a catchy head-bobbing sensation in the listener and serves as an easy entry point for the album: slightly laid-back, and the abundant smooth and layered vocal/instrumental production work on the release are introduced here with great efficacy. Add to this, the chorus repetitions of “This is my hand, these are my words” – and the effectiveness of the trio’s pop melodies are immediately evident.
There’s really just something about the vocal melody in the chorus of second track Juliana that it easily bores it way into your brain, as Leung belts a tightly-produced “But I wait, I wait for peace; and I wait, I wait for water” alongside Marino’s arpeggiated guitar riffs and Norquay’s electronic hi-hat hits. Likely by the time this number rolls around, you’ll start to think that it’s the one that’ll get stuck in your head for days.
You’re wrong, but I’ll get to that.
Control features more of the same catchy synth-pop riffs in 4/4 time with the thick vocal production that you’ll come to expect by this point. Though the following track August 31st is a little more laid-back then earlier tracks with clean dual piano/guitar tones alongside some of Norquay’s more interesting electro-percussion work – to be fair though, there’s a good abundance of that throughout the course of Crayon Wars.
In Line opens with the signature Nord keys sound that features so prominently on so many PAPERMAPS tracks – though clearly it goes in a much different direction with more of that prominent clean key tones overtop of a soundbed of looping synth effects.
Now, remember when I said you were wrong earlier in your quick decision as to the track that’s going to seep into your mind and not let go… the title we were looking for Open My Eyes. I know this because that’s the one I still can’t bump out, as it opens the back half of the release with an extremely strong and emotional keys/vocal/percussion offering… and even if you don’t catch the words in that chorus the first time around, you’ll definitely be humming or whistling it by the time the album comes to a close.
The remainder of the album isn’t as poignant and in your face as the front half, as things tend to drift towards a much slower pace and would probably make for good mid-set breaks from the intensity in the front half of the release.
Let me stress that this is not to say that it’s bad in the slightest, it’s just not nearly as STACKED with hits as the front half of the album. Each song is catchy in its own right, and ballad Story About A Boy in particular is a REALLY strong showing from the back half that would fit perfectly as the penultimate number in a live set, right before the trio closes things off with a bang: a slow intro to a building bridge that crescendos into a full-band breakdown at the end. I would’ve liked this to have a little more punch production-wise, as it feels subdued… but in the live setting it’ll likely be a shit-show…
You’ll see exactly what I mean if you head down to Sneaky Dees in Toronto on Friday night, as WENDY VERSUS prepares to officially unload Crayon Wars on the masses, with friends PATRICK GRANT, LOVELY KILLBOTS, and MIX CHOPIN in tow.