I love Wendy Versus and their new record Crayon Wars. I should just say that upfront. If I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t be doing the release party at Sneaky Dee’s with Patrick Grant‘s new band, Lovely Killbots, and Mix Chopin. So this isn’t a review so much as it is a preview of an album that I strongly suggest you make the effort to hear.
Wendy Leung has been around the Toronto music scene for a while now. You may well of saw her in recent years playing under her own name with a backing band. If you did, however, it wouldn’t really give you any idea what to expect on Crayon Wars. All the hallmarks are still there — Wendy’s excellent voice, strong songwriting, exceptional piano/keyboard playing — but that’s about where the comparisons end. In the new band, Wendy is playing with Owen Norquay (Soi Disant, Clouds That Look Like Things, LSD Spider, L’affumer, B’MO Crazy, and co-founder of Show Gopher) and Dean Marino (Papermaps, Tin Star Orphans, and co-owner of Chemical Sound). The band is taking Wendy’s music and doing it on their terms, with no live drums, tons of keys and synths, and hugely creative song arrangements, combining a plethora of ideas and genres to come up with a sound that is very hard to box into one category.
It’s highly electro with a ton of pop sensibility. It’s experimental but you can feel that the experimentation has been reeled in just enough to leave Crayon Wars as an album that will challenge you but not scare you off with its complexity. The album is a labour of love built among bandmates who are also close friends and recorded by someone also very close to the band, Cameron Harding. The process allowed Wendy Versus to take their time with the recording, and take their time they did. I can’t imagine what the album might have sounded like if they didn’t spend so long on it.
Crayon Wars is an album for sad introspective nights and yet it’s also an album for long walks in the woods. It’s an album to smoke a joint to and just lose yourself in the layers of what is going on, but it’s also an album that, when played live in the right room, is an absolute dancehall banger. You don’t find versatility like that in local indie music all that often.
But don’t take my word for it — I have an exclusive stream of “Open My Eyes” and trust me, stick with this track till the end because it goes somewhere I guarantee you didn’t see coming. Click it at the bottom of this column! Also, for information on the Crayon Wars launch party at Dee’s, go here!