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New Canyons: Everyone Is Dark - Album Review –Violent Success

New Canyons: Everyone is Dark — The Chicago music scene these days seems to be comprised mainly of DJ’s, the occasional promising punk band, Chance The Rapper, and more DJ’s. Obviously that is a pretty big overstatement, but it gives you the picture that New Canyon’s brand of synth-pop isn’t the most common in their hometown. That might change, though, once people get their hands on New Canyon’s impressive new album Everyone Is Dark.


The duo lays their influences clearly out on the table; Andrew Marrah and Adam Stilson put milage on My Bloody Valentine’s atmospherics, New Order’s synth patches, and Morrissey’s ache. Though, New Canyon’s aren’t just using the sounds of these post-punk hall of famers for cool points, nor are they shamelessly ripping them off. Everyone Is Dark is a record about nostalgia, and these sounds of the past are used as a key to our emotional vault. Its about time someone in Chicago drew from the film soundtracks of former resident John Hughes to help pack a sentimental punch.


Once the lead synth line storms in on the opening track ‘End Colors’ you are immediately locked in. The beat become more towering as the song progresses, while Stilson’s voice tries to break free from a cage of reverb. The song ends abruptly and gives way to the dreamy ‘Pitch Black.’ The track shows that the hours they spent listening to Loveless were as educational as they were enjoyable. Gentle arpeggiated synths fill in the spaces surrounding the layers of emotive guitar work. As with most of the record, the production quality on the song has just the right blend of lo-fi immediacy and hi-fi warmth.


Many of lyrics express a yearning to return to a more fervent state, before everyone became dark. Like on the albums centerpiece, ‘Made For Rockets’, Stilson belts “I used to feel in love with you” in his best Ian McCulloch impression, over anthemic post-punk guitars and cinematic keyboard lines. The album closes with the previously released and newly remastered ‘Life Support’. As the title suggests it is the records most life affirming moment. The delay guitars and powerhouse vocal performance threatens to reach U2‘s level of grandiosity, but luckily the track ends before it has the chance to overdose on its own bombast.


The duo aren’t quite on the level of artists such as Bat For Lashes or M83, who were able to form entirely original voices from the sounds of 80's new-wave pioneers. New Canyons may have set themselves apart in Chicago’s scene, but to make a splash in independent music as a whole they will have to leave some of the comfort of their influences behind and find their own footing. They won’t have to much to worry about, though. If Everyone Is Dark is any indication, it isn’t a matter of if they will hit their mark but when…8.6/10


New Canyons – Everyone Is Dark (review) The Musical Junkie

New Canyons have stepped into a dark territory of shoegaze. It’s painted with 80’s retro goth synths showing rays of light in the shadows. It’s closely attached with the post-punk inspired guitar notes and electronic beats. The singer, above all, speaks in emotion and regret. He should like a lost ghost in the minimal and sinister “End Colors.” In “Pitch Black,” New Canyons turns their luminous music and places it in ice. The song’s overall ambience is cold and black. You can definitely sense the coldness in the wailing tone of the guitar. Its echoes leave a trail of chills. “Ghost & Water” is a melodic pop song dressed as fading memories. The synths are bright recalling the works of dreampop. Listening to this song recalls the image of a morning sky. It’s cool, calm, and partly dimmed. These are the moving themes found in the music. New Canyons are pulling in idea both old and new to create an icy sound that will warm your bones. It’s full in complexion of the human thought. It’s alright to get lost in it. 


Best track: "Pitch Black"

-The Musical Junkie


Album review: New Canyons “Everyone Is Dark” –Clank For Breakfast

Often, our hectic everyday life sucks us dry like a vampire, and we need to escape to an island of rest. Chicago based New Canyons, consisting of Adam Stilson and Airiel’s Andrew Marrah, offer a musical getaway help. When you close your eyes and lean back, and their embracing, romantic blend of electronic wave-pop, shoegaze and new romantic starts to stream through the speakers, the charming tonal fragrance effects soothing like sweet chocolate and makes you smile. The well written songs have been painted with highly melodic colors and a dreamy, yearning atmosphere, and while you’re diving into the cloud of sounds that are accompanied by smooth, emotional vocals, you’re gonna notice many cleverly arranged details. There’s a good dose of nostalgia involved when my old ears absorb these retro-tinged waves that somehow could be a cooperation between Cocteau Twins, A Flock Of Seagulls, Clan of Xymox and The Chameleons, but the production does sound modern and fresh, so that’s a good combo. A delightful tidbit. –Clank For Breakfast


The Bomber Jacket

"Every now and then 80s-influenced throwback albums pop into the indie spectrum, like the recent work from Handsome Furs, Goldfrapp, and the soundtrack to the new film, Drive. The choice in composition is usually either a result of the nostalgic love for the era’s sound, or a distaste for modern-day indie pop. Chicago’s New Canyons, a project of Airiel’s Andrew Marrah, is releasing its debut eight-track album this spring, titled Everyone is Dark. The work is replete with bending 80s electric guitars, distant, moaning Cure-like vocals, and blankets of synths. And it’s good."

-The Bomber Jacket


Review: New Canyons – Strife, Struggle & Fire 

-Leonard's Lair


There have been so many acts who appear to be leading the 80’s revival that it’s occured that the last year there wasn’t an 80’s revival was actually in 1989. No matter, New Canyons are a Chicago-based act who have clearly been influenced by the most melodramatic purveyors of synth pop but their take on it is strangely likeable. 


Much of ‘Strife, Struggle & Fire’ consists of great swathes of synth pop that would make Ultravox blush. ‘Dressed To Kill’ is awash with epic keyboard melody but it’s hamstrung by the frontman’s over-emoting. Arranged in a not dissimilar fashion, ‘Last To Love’ is a messy affair which sounds like the band members are competing against each other. 


On ‘We Could Drive’, however, New Canyons demonstrate for the first time that they are to be taken seriously. It’s another very portentous song but a doomy bass guitar, some sparkling atmospherics and a more restrained turn from their singer bodes well for the remainder for the record. So ‘Heart Transparency’ is a fine melancholic shoegazer track which benefits from a slower pace and ‘Slow Waltz’ is, ironically, rather quicker and its key hook displays a welcome sense of urgency that bodes well for the future. I also enjoyed the downbeat tale of ‘Caligula’. 


Strife, Struggle & Fire’ is one of those records that can be so OTT in terms of sound and emotion that it seems ridiculous. Yet within this debut, there are some icy pop gems that remind me of a young and equally serious Tears For Fears or even The Chameleons if they’d discovered electro-pop. 


Further Listening:  Tears For Fears, The Chameleons


Other Press:

New Canyons, one of LLP’s 13 Bands to Watch in 2013, was featured in a new podcast by Windy City Rock, and Notes and Bolts.


"The retro ’80s feel of New Canyons’ dreamy shoegaze sure is intoxicating. This new duo teased Chicago in 2012 with a modest two-song digital release, titled “Everyone is Dark,” which features hints of Depeche Mode in their lush, dripping programmed soundscapes – especially on the shimmering, moody cut, “Pitch Black.” Thankfully, local imprint BLVD Records is putting out New Canyons’ full-length debut this Spring." (Richard Giraldi)


Must hear: Pitch Black


Bandcamp Track of the Day! (Ghost & Water) May 12th 2013 - When the Sun Hits


Top 50 Most Loved Shoegaze and Dream Pop Tracks of 2012 (Pitch Black) - DKFM


93.1 WXRT Chicago - Local Anesthetic

"A hard sound to pull off, many have failed in their attempt to go full on synthesizer and make it sound bright with accompanying songs. But these guys pull it off."

Gossip Wolf –Chicago Reader
“To Gossip Wolf, New Canyons sound like OMD and the Cocteau Twins playing to each other from either side of a lonely valley—but these dreamy local synth-­poppers are bringing them together!” -Gossip Wolf, Chicago Reader

13 Chicago Bands to Watch in 2013 –Loudlooppress
One of the reasons why I made sure that New Canyons were included in our 13 Chicago Bands to Watch in 2013 was because their sound is so focused and genre-committed… Their sound is such a synth-laden throwback that it’s difficult not to be swept up in the lush Tears For Fears slash Depeche Mode soundscapes.” -Richard Giraldi

Bandcamp Track of the Day: New Canyons. Great Depths. –When The Sun Hits

Chicago Tribune - Fall Music Preview (2015)

"If you are looking for music that will glitter and shimmer and also knock you out via its sheer "wall of sound," then New Canyons will surely fit the bill. The shoegaze revival might have come and gone after a brief burst of energy in the late aughts, but that has not stopped New Canyons from sticking to (and succeeding within) the genre. The band's is a revisionist sound executed to a startlingly precise degree, wistful vocals matched perfectly with steady drums and stark synths that wash over the listener again and again. Although its last full length was released in 2013, the group has a slew of shows lined up for the latter half of the year, promising new and old fans a chance to fall under its all-encompassing aural spell." - Britt Julious Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune - New Canyons rest at the intersection of noise and pop (October 22, 2015)

"We love noise and we love pop," New Canyons member Andrew Marrah said, and it is evident in the band's sound. The duo (which also includes Adam Stilson) has released two albums thus far (2009's "Strife, Struggle & Fire" and 2013's "Everyone is Dark"), and although it's shown growth between releases, the songs consistently push and pull listeners in a distinctive manner.
New Canyons has no live drummer or bass player. Songs weave along on the strength of melodies and dry-toned synths, never hitting aggressively but floating harmoniously with guitars that awash listeners in glorious, pretty riffs.

Sequencing bass lines, blaring drum machines and cranking guitar cabs. ... We birthed a wall of sound that seemed to satisfy our needs," Marrah said. "Synthesizers had become our best friends."
Most significantly, the group's members view themselves as not only musicians, but also engineers and producers, based on the music they've created as well as working with other artists. "We've learned a lot by mixing and producing other artists' material. Our sound continues to get more and more defined, but also more focused sonically and emotionally," Marrah added.

In the long line of new, obscure or difficult-to-understand musical genres, "dark pop" seems as straightforward as possible. What does "dark pop" even mean? Obviously, there is an emphasis on pop. Melodies are present, but skewed. It is not perfect or clean or mainstream, but it is memorable and catchy, the two most important aspects of pop music.
New Canyons puts its music in that same "dark pop" micro genre, but a number of more classic genre names might also come to mind after a first listen: shoegaze, dream pop or even noise rock. Latent in the duo's music is an emphasis on mood, music that would mate perfectly coupled with lazy, long, contemplative nights.
Formed from the fragments of a previous, Michigan-based band, New Canyons continues to push itself in Chicago's difficult music scene. Marrah said he and Stilson credit the strength and support of their fellow musicians. "We love the community we found in Chicago," Marrah said. "These groups have turned into close friends and (collaborators)."
In a city as broad and diverse as Chicago, it can be difficult for a group to distinguish itself among the packs of other musicians, working both within and outside any genres. But New Canyons finds support in notable venues like the Empty Bottle, Mayne Stage and Subterranean, which continue to champion the band and its place on the city's scene. "Chicago has been a hard city to get along with as a musician, but there are a ton of great resources if you seek them out," Marrah said.

As for now, the group will continue working, with the hopes of releasing a new album in 2016 and touring nationally and internationally. This might be difficult to achieve, in light of the complications of where they live and trying to stand out, but that won't stop the group as it — more or less — hasn't stopped them in the past.
"We distinguish ourselves solely by the sounds we make," Marrah said. And that sound, something he described as "louder and tighter than most rock bands by solely using electronic instruments," seems to have found fans and a community. -Britt Julious Chicago Tribune

Show reviews:
Brooklyn Vegan - Show review w/ OWEN in Chicago @ Beat Kitchen
THE BRVTALIST Show review / Telefon Tel Aviv & Surachai @ Empty Bottle Chicago

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