Album Review: Luke Lalonde’s Rhythymnals
By Sabrina Nanji
It started with a beat. Then it was fleshed out with the odd droning of synth machines, violin, piano, steel drums and the trademarked smooth wail of Born Ruffians frontman Luke Lalonde. The result is Rhythymnals, Lalonde’s debut solo album, which brings music back to its elemental roots — and serves as an ode to the appreciation of sound itself. Yes, electro-pop can do that.
We got our first listen of Rhythymnals — to be released on Oct. 30 — and boy, has this Toronto-based ruffian taken a turn towards breezy, mellow shores.
As I uncased the album, from the Paper Bag Records team, I must confess that I was mentally bracing myself. I would have to do my utmost to steel against any comparison to Lalonde’s day band, Born Ruffians, which pretty much serve as the soundtrack to my summers. But as soon as the first song, “Grand (Rhythymnals),” began, I knew that I need not have worried. Instantly, it was obvious that Rhythymnals is more than just a side vanity project; it’s a venture into exotic auditory territory.
For fans of Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear, you’ll be happy to know that there are still elements of Born Ruffian goodness: melodic, hooky, synth-heavy electro-pop that ties in influences spanning R&B, electronica, pop and reggae.
These 10 tracks are devoted to sonic exploration. The first track is an indication that Lalonde is playfully toying with his instruments — and it could probably stand alone as a single. The actual single, “Undone,” is a dreamy R&B-fused ballad, and will likely have even of the most rigid listeners shamelessly grooving to it on the streetcar or waiting in line at the grocery store. Deeper into it, “Shove Off” is a ditty in which the galloping guitar riffs and jaunty hooks of Born Ruffians come out, but with a muffled laxness that is heard across the album.
According to the presser, the record was “originally centred around the notion of sound existing whether we do or do not and our unique ability to interpret it and manipulate it,” then it branched out into songs about gender-confused couples, a boy who is unhappy with his feminine features (so he cuts his face up) and long distance love.
If Rhythymnals has a downfall, it is its lack of cohesiveness: it’s a compilation of a range of emotions and sounds from almost every genre. Think of Lalonde as a mad scientist, conducting crazed sonic experiments in his beat laboratory.
And don’t worry, Born Ruffians aren’t going anywhere — they’re dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on their third full-length, slated to drop in 2013.
Rhythymnals will be officially released on Paper Bag Records on Oct. 30.