I recently read an interesting piece by Marc Schuster regarding the sub-genre Jangle-pop that was not only quite enlightening, but timely as it turns out. Today’s featured artist is one that I think checks a few boxes on that Jangle-pop checklist. That artist is Toronto’s Justin Chee and his project Ordinary // Colours. “Jangly” guitar work with minimalistic effects pirouetting with a super melodic vocal delivery, I hear potentially some crossover there from his indie folk, bedroom pop brand. Ordinary // Colours as a project, is relatively new to scene in terms of officially releasing music, the debut single “Pacific Division,” was released only three months ago mid-July. It’s been generating some niche buzz recently with over 1k streams and carrying a momentum into a brand new single scheduled to be released on November 4th entitled,
The best description I can give to the guitar work in the track is “dreamy” despite there not being an overt amount of effects used. Just the way it’s played and woven in and out of the arrangement gives it that effect. What I also find unique about this single is that the drum beat is the front and center of the melody of the song. The song starts out with just the drum beat and that rhythm is carried all the way through all the different dynamic changes, which makes it one of those songs that you’ll immediately recognize it upon revisiting it. Almost hypnotic. Similarly, not in sound per se, but in practice, to how a catchy drum beat was used in The Beatles’ “Every Little Thing” or Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” However, in contrast to those comparisons musically, “In Frustration” incorporates many other instrumentation too including a beautifully bright piano, synthesizers, an assortment of percussions (according to Chee, “cardboard boxes and kitchen pots…” whatever he could find at home) and I might be mistaken but I think I might even hear some xylophones in there. His vocal delivery is very soothing and well performed. It at times reminds me of The Post Office or The Shins.
Lyrically, the context of the words revolve around the idea of being more constructive with one’s frustrations, rather than internalize it unhealthily. Hence, the outro vocals to the track: “Sing in Frustration.”
Ordinary // Colours
It’s a song that was inspired by my own personal and friend’s experiences in dealing with workplace frustrations and was written as a therapeutic exercise for myself to attempt to channel the emotions into something that would be more constructively creative. It also coincidentally comes at a time when we are looking more critically at constructing healthier work/life balances and not having to tie the identity of ourselves to our occupations.
A concept I think any creative could relate to. I know I certainly do. The old “starving artist” vs. the “beadmaker” paradigm. Chee had previously released material under his own name before going on a hiatus to focus on a conventional career, again a kin to my heart, as I did the same for a long while. At the start of the pandemic, he found himself returning to work on several songs that have been accumulated during this time. Demonstrating once again, that you can take artist out of the art, but not the art out of the artist. As it turns out, “In Frustration” is also lyrically tied to the first single “Pacific Division” conceptually:
The second single is entitled “In Frustration” and continues from the perspective of the narrator introduced in “Pacific Division” (which detailed the dissatisfaction they felt over their current situation in life). “In Frustration” begins with just a guitar and drums, in a style similar to indie folk songs by Sufjan Stevens and Elliott Smith, as the narrator recounts a workplace that is rife with conflict, with colleagues who are always attempting to make themselves heard above one another. To avoid dealing with these situations, the narrator decides to stay withdrawn from others but as time goes on, finds themselves increasingly troubled at having to hide their true emotions. Early ’00s baroque pop influences such as choirs, harps and brass play out as accompanying noise within the narrator’s mind, serving to make them perpetually question themselves about this strategy and also leading them to wonder if being more forthright and truthful would consequently lead to better mindfulness. With each passing moment of stress, the narrator feels progressively closer to a breaking point where they wish to let it all out into the open but ultimately, the song ends before they get there, signifying that the narrator has chosen to temper their emotions but with the uncertainty about whether they will again continue to do so in the future.Ordinary // Colours
It’s interesting to read Chee’s take on specific characters he’s envisioned for his musical work. We all tend to hear music ourselves as listeners and draw our own connections to it, but hearing him describe the headspace he was in when writing it, adds additional “easter eggs” to look for when revisiting it. Love the Elliot Smith reference as well, one of my favorite singer/songwriters. Ordinary // Colours will be having a full-length album released at some point next year, and it will be interesting to follow this project and see how much of the entire album becomes a concept piece.
Don’t forget to support this project and to follow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and Spotify. You can also visit his official website. If you enjoy their music and are able to provide monetary support, you might consider downloading it on Bandcamp.
It also helps to stream and share their music; you can obviously find it in the following Playlists: Less Than 1,000 Followers, Fresh Singles, Indie Only, 12 New Songs This Week, Chill – Folk – Acoustic, Debut Bands (Off The Radar), and Unknown But Essentials!.
Remember that you can always find me here AMS Radio for all my social media and collaborations.
P.S. If you enjoy discovering new artists and fresh new music you can subscribe to this blog Less Than 1,000 Followers and follow the Playlist with all the artists that we have presented here!
This coverage was created via Musosoup #sustainablecurator