Over here in Austin, there’s an overabundance of shitty bro bands trying to market themselves as “real” music, which usually means lots of power chords, solos, facial hair and maybe an acoustic guitar or two. It’s nothing new for guitar fascists to argue that electronics aren’t true “instruments,” authenticity warfare has been waged since culture has existed but it never stops being depressing, particularly when you consider that an increasing amount of the most soulful music these days is created in bedrooms with an array of laptops and controllers rather than in a major label studio where every “real” instrument gets its own isolation booth. Canadian soon-to-be-superstar Caila Thompson-Hannant, who records as Mozart’s Sister, puts this aspect of her creation process in the bio in the online liner notes for new album Being, stating that she “produced, recorded and wrote the album using a cheap sound card and Ableton software, approaching it with a do-it-all-by-my-fucking-self ideology.” There’s real sweat, blood and tears in these ones and zeroes, a clear zest for creation that doesn’t need to play up its organic nature in order to publicize its authenticity.
Like her fellow Canadian Grimes, Hannant uses her bedroom production to create an intriguing sonic world throughout Being, but where Grimes tends to get vocally lost in that world, flitting in and out of focus like an audio pixie, Mozart’s Sister is a project that unabashedly puts its big pop vocals front and center. Hannant has a strong, vivid voice that makes even her most Grimes-y tracks, like “Lone Wolf,” stand out as decidedly different; there may be bubbly synths and a fluttering electro beat, but your ears are pulled to those powerful pipes more than any other element. Hannant’s bio posits “Post-era Bjork” as one of her chief influences and that makes perfect sense; she has an impressive handle on dynamics and like Bjork she uses the airy roominess of her recordings to maximize the beauty of her tone, particularly on more down tempo numbers like “A Move.” But the other chief vocal influence she lists is funk freak Betty Davis, which shows itself less in a trademark sexed up Betty Davis scream than in a gonzo approach to combining influences.
Point being, Mozart’s Kiss is authentically something new and personal, carved out of a clear love for music rather than a clear hatred of others’ experimentation. Even when Hannant is playing around with more obvious R&B melodies, it’s something like “My House is Wild,” a track that filters the R&B through a dial tone sample, an electro-pop beat and a house music climax. You never get the feeling that Hannant is making music based off a list of things she wants to emulate or avoid, instead her musical DNA can’t help but assert itself organically through the music, which in turn makes it more authentic than any white boy “roots rock” could ever hope to be, keyboards be damned.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends on twitter: @Nick_Hanover