Canadian synth-popper Caila Thompson-Hannant, aka Mozart’s Sister, is not unique. She follows in the footsteps of Grimes, Chvrches, and even arguably past synth lovers such as Depeche Mode (reach out and touch faif?) as well as Bjork, to whom she bears a striking resemblance on the crimson tinged cover art. The point is, her music isn’t one in a million, it’s not particularly groundbreaking, nor is it terribly ambitious. There’s a touch of Elizabeth Fraser in her voice, a dash of the aforementioned Grimes in her percussively minimal synth-pop and a cynical part of me wants to say that we’ve heard it all before, it’s nothing new and let’s just move on. However, if this was the case, I wouldn’t have been so excited for this album. I wouldn’t have been so smitten with 2013’s EP Hello and I wouldn’t have even bothered listening to this album more than once or twice.
It’s true that this music bears similarities to other artists, and that these can be picked out swiftly by a good ear, although this is probably one of the most endearing things about the record. It’s refreshing these days to hear an artist who’s not afraid to wear their influences proudly on their sleeve: when every band seems to be obsessed with finding their own individual sound or their own niche, to create a sub-genre of music so groundbreaking that bands will adhere to its vague rules and proclaim themselves proponents of this new style, it’s great to know that some just want to make music they love, like their favourite artists have done, and not worry about being the next big new thing, creating their own genre or writing themselves into the upper echelons of popular music history.
Thompson-Hannant possesses a rather wide vocal range – not exactly Freddie Mercury levels of range, but there’s nice moments of contrast between a somewhat husky, almost spoken vocal as heard in the verse of A Move and a passionate, fawning kind of vocal, to be found in the first few lines of standout track Don’t Leave It To Me. Comparing Thompson-Hannant’s musical style to others is fairly easy, as there’s obvious forerunners and influences. However, her vocals are certainly distinctive, and it’s a struggle to find a real comparison. At times she sounds like Nika Danilova, at other times there’s hints of Jessie Ware, and at some points her voice is even reminiscent of Alicia Keys. It’s this voice that sets her apart from similar artists – whereas Grimes is something of a one trick pony in this regard, and Zola Jesus almost requires commitment to listen to due to her intense vocal performance, Thompson-Hannant has a diverse and interesting vocal palette which really is the star of the whole record.
While this might not be the most original album of the year, nor the best record this year, it’s a highly promising full-length debut from an intriguing artist with a big future.