Canadian quartet Blessed are one of those rare projects that infuses a collection of pallets to create a unique vision. Their sound paints a vivid picture of the group’s isolated surroundings of their home in Abbotsford, a small city within the heart of rural British Columbia.
The haunting vocals of frontman Drew Rieckman work as the centerpiece for the band’s off-kilter instrumentals that shamble between rhythm infused post-punk and art rock’s experimental ruminations. Listeners can almost feel the tight quarters the band tries to escape from during the darkness of winter.
On Friday the band will release their EP iii, as a follow up to their highly praised 2019 debut Salt. The four-track EP is concise and measured, but there is a layer of depth provided by a host of collaborators for each song’s mixes. Guests include Purity Ring’s Corrin Hoddick, Tortoise’s John McEntire and Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh.
Below, Rieckman shares how Kurosawa’s Ikiru, Tarkovsky’s Sculpting In Time and Charli XCX’s discography has helped them get through the year.
Ikiru directed by Akira Kurosawa (1952)
There’s many facets I could touch on with Ikiru, but it was a weirdly relevant watch on a personal level. In the city some of us live in, Abbotsford, a group of us recently dealt directly with the painful bureaucratic runaround of trying to enact positive change after a city councilor made horrific public statements. The scene at the wake where everyone is patting themselves on the back for accomplishing nothing themselves yet taking credit for the work of positive citizen action felt frustratingly familiar. There’s so much more to take from this movie, but for me it was a personally cathartic experience.
The Work directed by Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous (2017) This movie has the exact same title as a self help series, so it’s imperative you include the year and directors’ names when you look for it. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a great, easily digestible jumping off point for addressing healthy self identity and deconstructing the norms that are in place around expressing emotion. A lot of the personal growth and respectability narrative where I grew up in Saskatchewan and British Columbia is framed around stoicism and appearing well kempt. Breaking down those social constructs and learning to be expressive and vulnerable is counter-intuitive to the dominant virtues of being presentable and professional, and it’s a life long learning curve. Further recommended reading would be The Will to Change and All About Love by Bell Hooks, which are also amazing for their ability to convey massive concepts in digestible language.
Sculpting In Time by Andrei Tarkovsky (1989)
Andrey Tarkosvky’s reflections on his movies are helping me to interrogate my own relationship with visual art. I’ve never considered myself particularly well suited to creating visual art, but as with most things in life, if you stop telling yourself you’re not built for it, there’s always room for growth. It’s hard to overcome the either 0 or 100 factor when it comes to interests and hobbies, especially when capitalism drills in the idea that any creation’s worth is only as deep as its monetary value (eg, If people wouldn’t financially back me for this, I might as well not do it at all). Granting yourself permission to be just ok at something and realizing that creating and collaborating is fulfilling regardless of public engagement is liberating. I love this short sentence as well about creating Ivan’s Childhood: “I found myself having to rely on my own taste and have faith in the competence of my aesthetic choices.” I think it helps deconstruct some of the romance around artists knowing exactly what they’re doing and feeling self assured in every move, whereas my experience in conversation with most people is that it’s the opposite.
No Joy – Motherhood (2020)
I don’t know anyone in this band, and I’m completely projecting my own idea onto it which is maybe way off base from the artist’s intention. But when I listened to this album for the first time it was like a massive weight off my shoulders. I felt a freeness and willingness to explore that I’m used to hearing as “un-marketable.”An album that flies in the face of the zeitgeist but then does well is a liberating thing to watch as someone who also creates “un-marketable” art. This album is a gift to people who are wary of trusting their own instincts.It feels like, in an overarching sense, it’s saying: “It’s ok to be yourself.”
Charli XCX’s discography
Not a lot of merch table dialogue is more aggravating than talking to hot to trot guitar sweep dudes who love to say how easy and generic pop songwriting is, as if the world should bow at the feet of anyone able to play 16th notes at 200bpm on their SG. Discrediting any form of music as a whole feels weirdly off-base if you’re a person with creative interests. But pop music especially gets dragged ultra hard when you’re an idiosyncratic, mathy or whatever band. Charli’s music is unbelievably forward thinking, especially in terms of sound design. In fact, the entire PC music umbrella is reshaping the capability of what can be considered “chart topping” music, which ultimately benefits all musicians in the long run.