Canary use heartbreak to inspire lyrically brilliant ‘I am Lion’

Melbourne-based quintet Canary has released their 10-track sophomore album, I am Lion, a musical homage to the many stages of a breakup. Somehow, they manage to deliver a harsh dose of reality in a surprisingly gentle manner. It is an album that anyone who has gone through a heartbreak of any sort can relate to. Inspired by events in frontman and songwriter Matthew Kenneally’s personal life, Canary has created an album that will leave you misty-eyed as you nod in accordance and wonder how a group of strangers could possibly know everything about you.

They don’t. Some experiences are simply universal.

The tracks of I am Lion are lengthy, but that is what allows them to take on their unpredictable transformations. The songs, expertly self-produced by bassist Isaac Barter, feature unorthodox time signatures and quirky hooks that haven’t been heard before. The album ranges from ethereal ballads that are able to stand on their own, to brilliantly written, complex arrangements featuring an abundance of bass riffs.

With that being said, Canary definitely won’t make a brutal break-up any more pleasant, but I have found that after obsessing over their lyrics and fawning over their inclusion of trumpets or their genius use of a choir, the theory that some of the best work stems from heartbreak seems to be true.

Canary proves the end of a relationship is never one-dimensional…

The opening track of I am Lion, “Burning Man” is almost angelic as it revels in human regret. “When I breathe my final apology / It will be the finest the world has ever seen,” croons Kenneally. His suffering couldn’t be more evident, but the layered vocals, gentle acoustics, and a choir really deliver the hopelessness, frustration, and intense sadness — they allow you to harbor some doubt and simultaneous hope for a higher power.

“Fickle Heart,” on the other hand, tackles broken love from another angle — with a bit of an anger, mockery and angst. It is upfront and brutal and switches up the tone completely in the choruses, playing with your mood. Spouting lyrics such as “And now I’m stupid as lose is / Still writing shit about you,” Kenneally reminds us that everyone can relate to wishing we could just forget that one person to no avail.

My favorite, “Last Resort,” is a unembellished tune. Kenneally’s vocals are paired with a guitar and a hint of piano, but no other frills are necessary. It represents the stage of defeat yet acceptance and further contemplation. The beauty is in the simplicity of the track.

“The Petty Details of So-and-So’s Life” doesn’t spare us the details of a man lamenting over his broken relationship. It is raw, intimate and haunting as the Kenneally’s words are paired with gentle female vocals.

Canary provide a sinister twist with, “Smile,” which proves itself to be the antithesis of its name. The music almost doesn’t fit vocals and the ominous choir allows for some commotion, paralleling what might go on in our heads when our emotions begin to drive us completely mad.

Finishing off strong, Canary present “Hide and Seek,” a lengthy final offering of a story that plays with an overlay of vocals featuring slight delays, resulting in an overall cathartic effect.

It is undeniable that I Am Lion requires an emotional investment. It may be painful at times, but it’s difficult to other groups that so genuinely embody every raw emotion they wish for their listeners to experience through their music.

I am Lion by Canary is now widely available, including on Spotify and Apple Music.

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