The music video for Ellis’ first single “The Drain” opens with less than a second of television static. That glimpse of static appears several more times throughout the course of the video but it’s more than just a motif for the video, it’s the overarching theme of her debut project, The Fuzz.
[spacer height="20px"]Ellis is the musical project of Hamilton-based singer-songwriter Linnea Siggelkow, who derived the name from her initials. Her sound was once described to her as emo dream pop and this is the label she assigns to it. It is beautiful, dramatic and sad music.
The Fuzz, which dropped on Nov. 9, is a collection of songs that Ellis wrote around the same time. She independently released the six-track project, which includes her first two singles “The Drain” and “What a Mess.” The EP gets it its name from the feelings that Ellis felt while writing the songs.
“[T]he fuzz is… this metaphorical place like the noise on a TV screen. It's just the lack of clarity… a feeling of being lost and a place I found myself in often and... where a lot of the songs came from was feeling sort of disoriented and confused and uncertain in this sort of metaphorical place,” Ellis explained.
On Nov. 28, Ellis will be playing at The Casbah for her EP release show. While performing makes her anxious, one thing she loves about performing in Hamilton is being able to see the familiar faces of her friends and collaborators in the audience.
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Not originally from Hamilton, Ellis loves the creative and caring community that she has found in the city. On The Fuzz, she collaborated only with the circle of talented individuals that she feels lucky to call her friends. Being able to trust her collaborators was important in creating this personal project.
In order to share some of the meaning behind her intimate tracks, Ellis created a zine with collaborative partner, Sean Richman. The zine features a spread for each song consisting of photographs, handwritten lyrics and GPS coordinates for significant places.
“I'm trying to create a mood… and I think to me the project is moody. But I also want it to just be beautiful… I love having visual elements. I think it's a great way to connect the listener with music in a different way… I hope it's a way of, if people are interested, going a little bit deeper into the songs themselves,” Ellis explained.
While the personal nature of the project means that it’s hard for Ellis to discuss all the events that inspired the EP’s tracks, she wants listeners to be able to relate to and resonate with the music. For her, making music is a way of processing emotions and using them to create something productive and tangible.
She started playing piano as a child since her mother was a piano teacher. When she was 12 years old, she began playing guitar and writing songs. Song-writing is very much ingrained in who she is.
Her song-writing process begins solitarily, which lends itself to the intimacy of her music. She always begins with a lyric and then builds up the song as much as she can on her own before she brings in her collaborators.
[spacer height="20px"]Ellis was deeply involved in all aspects of The Fuzz. She co-directed the videos for “The Drain” and “NYE” with her friend Andy Friesen.
“I think for this project it's been mostly DIY… I definitely like to have my hands on as many things as I can to do with the project. I feel a bit possessive of it,” Ellis explained.
This homespun approach has created a sound and visuals that feel attentively crafted and beautifully raw. In the new year, Ellis hopes to create a full-length album and tour, allowing her to share her stories of fuzz and freedom with more of the world.
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On stage, Alanna Stuart’s voice soars like a skyscraper while Ian Swain orchestrates an arrangement as bustling and controlled as a city street. The two halves of the Toronto duo gave an energized Supercrawl performance on Friday night with their mix of dancehall and emotive soul.
The two met at a party in Ottawa when Stuart interrupted Swain as he was spinning music as disc jockey. The hours they have spent since that night making music and touring together have forged a partnership of deep understanding and trust in one another.
“We're two very different people so, creatively, that's good but it's hard. We have such different mindsets and ways of approaching music and the world and our understanding of the world…I think it makes the music a lot better, but it also makes it a lot harder to work together,” Swain explained.
The beauty and collision of their differences is explored in a broader sense in their latest album, Lush Life, which was released in May 2018 They began writing the album years ago in Berlin but have always known that they wanted to speak about the way we live in cities today.
Lush Life draws inspiration from the Richard Price book by the same name, which they feel aptly captures the reality of having many diverse people living side by side. Throughout the album they examine both the good and the bad sides of metropolitan life.
“I think the good thing is that there's so many different people… forced, just out of proximity, to interact and engage with each other… But the bad part of that is that we haven't quite figured out how to do it right, just yet… This is a new thing for us humans,” Stuart explained.
This challenge is exemplified in the indie landscape itself. Stuart is proud to be part of the independent scene for she believes it is where innovation in music takes place. However, she would like to see more diverse audiences, alternative nominees at the Juno’s and rosters across Canada.
While dealing with the intersection of their differences is challenging, it has also given birth to beautiful projects. They have been inspired by cities, such as Hamilton, where dissimilarity has united to create new and unique sounds.
The pair mixed their record in the Steel City and spent a summer here exploring Hamilton’s electronic music scene. Stuart looks up to artists such as Junior Boys, Jessy Lanza and others who were inspired by the abandoned steel mills and mixed industrial sounds with others like Detroit techno.
“All these people have existed outside the mainstream industry and as a result seem free of certain industry expectations. [They] created their own unique [and] soulful electronic music sound… I feel like that ethos of just staying true, as simple and cliché as it sounds, just staying true to music and trusting that you will find your people out there, [that’s] what Hamilton has taught me,” explained Stuart.
By staying true to themselves Bonjay has created a sound that amalgamates their different experiences and outlooks. Elements of dancehall in their music is reminiscent of Stuart’s father’s native Jamaica, as is pieces from indie-pop singer-songwriter, Feist, whom they covered during their Supercrawl performance.
Bonjay’s sound is indescribable, but the duo knows how they want you to feel. During Bonjay’s Supercrawl performance, Stuart repetitively asked the crowd to yell out their name. The name is Grenadian slang for ‘good God’ is something her mother’s family exclaims whenever something amazing or unexpected happens.
The melodic blend of both the creators and the different influences is perhaps a microcosm of what cities will be like when we finally get it right. By merging their varied influences, they have created a sound that is difficult to pinpoint but as harmonious and surprising as the cities they are inspired by.
By: Anisha Rajkumar
In late June, a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Ivy” by Raleigh made its way onto Indie88’s list of the best new indie tracks. Raleigh found themselves in the good company of the National, Arcade Fire and St. Vincent.
This was not the last time they would find themselves amongst indie heavyweights. Raleigh’s latest album Powerhouse Bloom was produced after attending at art residency curated by members of Broken Social Scene, and the sound engineers behind Stars, Alabama Shakes and the Tragically Hip.
Brock Geiger, Clea Anaïs, Will Maclellan and Matt Doherty have truly created a genre-defying album. Each song from the new album contains various elements of jazz, folk, pop and psychedelic rock.
The band began almost a decade ago with Geiger (singer/songwriter/guitarist), and Anaïs, (singer/songwriter/cellist) as a duo playing at an experimental art festival in Calgary called the High Performance Rodeo.
They performed under the pseudo-name, Raleigh, as the name was open and gave the project room to experiment and grow.
“We a really liked the way [Raleigh] sounded, and that it didn’t pigeon-hole us or have anything to do with our sound” said Geiger.
The group’s drummer Doherty, joined shortly after. He was intrigued by the way Geiger and Anaïs were playing in unusual time signatures and how they were very open to experimenting musically. As a jazz trained artist, he was able to add even more strange rhythmic elements.
Geiger and Maclellan are old friends who have been playing in bands together since high school. Maclellan (bass/engineering) recently started re-working with Geiger after attending university.
Raleigh had the opportunity to attend an artist residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, where they were able to develop their latest project.
“The residency was a couple weeks. [We were] fully open to the process of reworking and reimagining… and taking these influences and opportunities to work with all these people… to rediscover what we wanted to get out of a new record,” said Geiger.
“It was a long process of evolving but once we got those two weeks, we had a really clear picture of the songs and… sonic direction things were taking. It all really made sense from there, there wasn’t a lot of second guessing.”
Broken Social Scene members Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin and Kevin Drew curated this residency. Raleigh was also able to work with engineering experts: Nyles Spencer (the Tragically Hip), Graham Lessard (Stars) and Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes).
“We all know their music so well, you know? It was some of the first cool indie rock stuff that some of us were listening to… we looked up to them but I think they also didn’t look down on us.”
While creating the album, Brock recalls being floored by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s new record at the time, Multi-Love.
“The willingness to use strange sounds and present them in a palatable, catchy… inviting way. That was really intriguing to me,” explained Brock.
A lot of of hip-hop and minimalist underground dance music also influenced the project.
“A song like ‘Just Kids’, the first one on this record, is pretty much a straight-up hip-hop track if you remove all the… swirly ambience, the cello and the guitars.”
The group’s dynamic also illustrates a collaborative core.
“Clea actually wrote that bass line [on ‘Just Kids’], we all kind of jump around and when someone’s got an idea on another instrument, people are willing to get out of the way and let someone come up with what’s good,” said Brock.
One of Geiger’s favourite songs from the album is “We Met in Alcatraz”.
“That song was recorded in one day… I just like the energy that tune has and… I think that tune also kind of encapsulates what we were hoping the mood of the record would be, and ‘powerhouse bloom’ is actually a lyric from one of the verses in that song as well.”
Raleigh is a band on the rise. Even in the midst of their Canadian tour and latest release, the band promises new music in the near future.
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Upon looking up Sioux Falls on Facebook, I saw that the lead singer’s name is Isaac Eiger, which tickled me, given that I was just about to write this piece comparing Eiger to another Isaac, Brock of Modest Mouse.
Sioux Falls’ Isaac Eiger is flexible in his singing. He can both yell and “sing pretty.” This sort of versatility was described by Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch when discussing Isaac Brock’s singing style in the 2014 documentary, Lonesome Crowded West.
Songs like “San Francisco Earthquake” on Sioux Falls’ Rot Forever are reminiscent of the Lonesome Crowded West era of Modest Mouse, specifically, the riff at around the middle-mark of the song reminds me of a similar riff in “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine.”
Not all tracks are exact shadows of Modest Mouse’s work, though. While Brock does yell on his tracks, they aren’t necessarily aggressive in the way that Sioux Falls tends to be. “In Case It Gets Lost” is a prime example of this. In fact, this particular track is post-punk-emo enough to remind me of the tone of Brand New’s album, Deja Entendu.
The album itself is rather lengthy, running for seventy-three minutes. Sioux Falls has been criticized for the length of the album by Pitchfork, but I disagree. The songs don’t drawl on for an inordinate amount of time, they play out long enough to lull the listener into falling in love with them. I think that the length is characteristic of the band’s influences. All-in-all, I enjoy the lo-fi post-punk sound of Sioux Falls, and I think this album will be putting them on the map.
Rot Forever is the album I have been waiting for from Modest Mouse since 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. If only I could swap out Rot Forever for Strangers to Ourselves so that we can officially forget about the latter album and let it rot forever.
By: Inaara Sumar
alt-J has outdone themselves yet again with this beautifully innovative new record. This is All Yours will take you on an anything but ordinary experience of indie rock vibes followed by hints of soft alternative that only alt- J could’ve created. Somehow the UK-based band has managed to keep their intricate sound that their fans know and love, while still creating something completely different that pushes the indie world to a more radical place.
alt-J’s freshman effort, An Awesome Wave, surprised listeners with its unconventional sound that had them pegged as Radiohead’s torchbearers, and the band has since aimed to continue down that experimental vein. Having not heard new material from the band since 2012, listeners will be pleased to hear a sense of maturity. Starting with Joe Newman’s vocal range beautifully spotlighted throughout the album, the band seems to be getting more extensive with each release. Newman’s unorthodox sound tapers perfectly to the band’s eccentric style, tying the whole operation together while not acting too dissonantly.
The album picks up with the aptly titled “Intro,” showcasing some of their featured a capella dancing into electronic, vibes and rumbling drums. This is All Yours then moves on to tracks based around the band’s experience in a small town in Japan, Nara, which is where the influences of the track names “Arrival in Nara,” “Nara,” and “Leaving Nara” originated from. The fourth track, “Every other Freckle,” highlights the band’s flair for heavy, dramatic beats that will leave any listener in a trance. The album picks back up with “Left Hand Free,” exhibiting some of the band’s grittiness with newly adopted classic guitar riffs.
“Hunger of the Pine,” a track that features a sample of Miley Cyrus’ “4x4” contributes a deep cohesive melody that really tops off the album’s creative standards. The final track, “Leaving Nara,” sums up every aspect of the multiple dimensions of alt-J, hitting everywhere from soft notes on a piano to the heavy electronic bass featured multiple times throughout the album.
This is All Yours is as progressive as it gets when it comes to modern day alternative. This album was a risk taken with no fear of the mainstream, and I don’t think it could’ve been executed any better. If you’re looking for something beautifully abnormal then it’s definitely worth a listen.
While it has only been a year, it is already hard to imagine listening to radio without Indie88. Kicking off its official launch on Sept. 3, 2013, Indie88 recently celebrated its first birthday, leaving me to reflect on all that it has achieved.
Upon release Indie88 sought to offer an alternative to top-40 pop hits, and the increasing lack of variety that 102.1 The Edge was offering, hoping to provide an outlet for “indie” music that didn’t get the attention it deserved. While it was hard not to cringe at the idea of anything explicitly describing itself as “indie,” I couldn’t help but feel excited. Radio to me had become the primary way to expose myself to top-40 music – something I do enjoy – and the idea of discovering music outside of that genre was something I had all but abandoned.
So what happened? Well, the station certainly took some time to find its bearings. Having grown to resent the stale playlists of The Edge, I was skeptical when the station started off playing some of their tried and true favourites. This Edge nightmare included, among others, a collection of Bob Marley tracks to chill you out, a strong mix of Arcade Fire, Metric, and City and Colour songs to comply with Canadian content laws, and an uncomfortably large amount of Rise Against.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Arcade Fire as much as the next guy, but those bands weren’t exactly expanding my musical horizons. In fact, more often than not it seemed 102.1 The Edge looked to play only tracks that were popular three years ago, refusing to dip their radio toes into a pool of artists that were popular, but not receiving radio attention. I wanted to find out about someone new. I wanted a change of pace.
I quickly began to realize that Indie88 and I shared a very similar vision. Whenever I tuned in, popular artists like Vampire Weekend, Alt-J, and Bloc Party filled the air just as often as Arcade Fire or Metric, creating a fresh balance of tracks that catered to a wider audience. Moreover, instead of simply relying entirely on Dallas Green and Emily Haines to uphold Canadian content laws, Indie88 played artists like Purity Ring, Caribou, and Hannah Georgas, further adding to the variety. Indie88 even made sure to flip through a few 80s classics and other artists that younger audiences might not be familiar with, to further mix things up.
The more I listened, the more I found new songs I liked. As time passed, it became a kind of unwritten rule amongst my friends to just put Indie88 on by default, as it had “something for everyone”. While the station is still far from perfect, it has helped to shake up radio in the Greater Toronto Area, and for that I am truly thankful. So happy birthday Indie88, keep on bringing fresh music to commuters everywhere. To quote the high school yearbook classic: “you rock, don’t ever change.”
Looking back to older albums, it seems the most memorable aspects of Interpol tracks were the changes in energy and pace. Each song was careful and deliberate in the cumulative buildup, and the climax of individual songs and each album as a whole was strategic. The bass and treble are meticulously crafted to interact and play with one another under vague lyrics about love in deceptively simple layering that leaves interpretation up to the listener.
These familiar themes also exist to some degree on El Pintor. It's more reminiscent of Interpol's hit album Turn On The Bright Lights than the generally disliked Interpol. After a basic start in “All the Rage Back Home”, it becomes apparent that this song merely eases you into the track list, rather than setting the tone for the entire album. The more segmented and clearly defined instrumentals and transitions of this introduction song give way to constantly changing and developing pieces that shift between establishing a familiar presence and expanding new sounds. The memorable opening riffs of “My Desire” change into mere texture by the climax to provide a great listen. This feels like the true beginning to the album. “All the Rage Back Home”, also the opening single to the album, is like the practice and tune-up before the big performance.
Each song then progresses in a similar fashion. A simple riff leads into the full band, which then introduces more and more until the inevitable climax and fall. While this is simple and may seem repetitive throughout El Pintor, Interpol deserves praise not for surprising the listener or providing a large amount of variation in their tracks, but in refining their tried and true nuances.
Because of this familiarity, it is difficult to describe the differences from song to song. The only real variations are what they choose to bring to the forefront, and the listener's own personal enjoyment of the main hook or intensity. The established bass line giving way to the long vocal strands, repetitive guitar, and wildly varied percussion pace changes of “Anywhere” might be more appealing compared to the more laid-back, somber, and consistent “My Blue Supreme”. This similar structure, however, means that there is very little possibility that personal opinion of the album will actually change by listening to more of it.
All in all, listeners should not expect to be completely blown away by the album or for it to like Interpol if they disliked them before. For those that already enjoyed the band, this is a good addition to their discography and worthy of a listen.
When Toronto’s famed North By Northeast (NXNE) festival takes place this June, McMaster will have a few alumni taking part in the musical proceedings.
Aside from being McMaster graduates, Mikey Hill (lead vocals), Kohji Nagata (electric/slide guitar, other instruments), and Emily Anderson are all bound together by the fact that they are part of The Maladies of Adam Stokes, a burgeoning folk-rock outfit that has been together for five years. The trio are joined by Brett Harris (bass), Josh Awerbuck (lead guitar), and Ted Turner (drums).
Since the band’s inception in 2009, The Maladies have made a niche for themselves in what can seem like an oversaturated scene of hipsters moaning about their feelings while clad in flannel.
Their first ever show took place in humble surroundings at Toronto’s The Central.
Reflecting on the memorable gig, Hill said the entire deal was “hilarious.” To some extent, his observation can be taken literally as The Central doubles as a comedy venue and The Maladies’ were preceded by several comedians on the night of their performance.
“Some people were there to see the comedians, while others were there for the musicians. Everyone hung out and got along really well. It was interesting because it’s such a small venue and there were six of us jammed up on the stage, which made it even more intense.”
Since that show, The Maladies have gotten a lot of mileage under their belt touring Canada. Nagata explained that this was an eye-opening experience for the group, most of whom had been in bands before but had never taken an album out on the road.
“When you first start playing music in a band, you think, ‘Oh, it’d be really cool to go out on tour someday’. So being able to go across the East coast of Canada and play basically every night was really fun and exciting. I think it has refined our live show, but that’s hard to say with any sort of confidence because it’s like watching yourself grow; you don’t notice that you’ve grow about a quarter of an inch when you see yourself in the mirror everyday. But if you listen to our original recordings versus the way that we play now, there’s a stark contrast.”
The record that The Maladies were touring behind was their 2012 debut, City of Trees. At 10 songs, the album is easily digestible especially when considering the sparse, intimate nature of the recordings.
Anderson, Nagata, and Hill and the rest of the band are currently at work on their sophomore record and hope to have a few new songs ready for their June 20 NXNE show at Tranzac Club.
Myles Chats With Montreal's Newest Noisemakers: The Breezes
Montreal’s The Breezes are not only defined by their geography, but by an irreverent dose of humour, unpredictable at any instant.
Consisting of Matt Oppenheimer, Daniel Leznoff, James Benjamin and Adam Feingold, the electro-pop foursome possess tunes and talent of adroit jest, as evident in their viral, sing-a-long anthem “Count to Eleven.” However, as guitarist Dan Leznoff explains to ANDY, their roots are everything. “Seriously, Montreal made us. We’ve seen every band. Living here, the culture just breathes into you, covers you like a film of dust you don’t notice.”
Questioned further as to what gives Quebecois artist’s their certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ over Western Canadian cotemporaries, he didn’t hesitate to lay it down, proud and precise. ”Montreal is significantly cheaper than Vancouver and Toronto. It attracts artists who want to focus deeply on their craft without having to worry about rent and food. When you are really dedicated to learning about your art you come to Montreal and then you move on hopefully. It nurtures growth more than other cities.”
While the band’s sound derives from a dance floor zeitgeist of neon vibes and skinny ties, The Breezes undoubtedly know how to craft tasty hooks that balance the digital divide between today’s Top 40 and indie-chill. Indeed, adopting inspiration from all facets is integral to their tone – channeling the spirit of everyone from the late Owen Hart and Evel Knievel to Guns N' Roses and Ice-T, “boyhood heroes” as he calls them.
As for songwriting styles, Dan makes no bones about it: it’s about camaraderie and analogies. “A songwriter is just like an athlete, after a while he stops thinking about what he does and just does it. All you can do is live your art, study and listen a lot. Being in a band is all about building together. Competition is a force that helps the building process but one that can obviously destroy everything. Its all about figuring out how much space to give and how much to take.”
Aided by an escalating profile, the band exudes confidence, rather than evince egotism – something blithely reflected in the strength of their music and the successful manner by which they are managed.
The Internet can be a pitiless pool of blog-o-sphere build-up. For The Breezes, life’s too short to worry – embracing technology, but also swaying to their own sails. “Aint no taint to the paint. The Internet has leveled the playing field and opened the door for people all the way from Xanadu to Atlantis to Shangri La to know about you instantaneously, no matter where you’re from. We download music, shop at record stores, listen to the radio, go to clubs and the library to find music. Digital streaming and blog stuff have changed surprisingly little. A song is still a living, breathing thing that you hear with your ears and feel with your soul. ”
Online, songs can sustain longevity. However, to succeed professionally, a group lives or dies by their ability to perform live. From a recording studio to stage milieu, Dan explained the difference between both in typical Breezes fashion. “Our live show is much more free and loose, like a virgin in Tijuana on Spring Break. The record is like her audio engineer twin sister, who views Spring Break as extra study time to nitpick and dissect sonic mysteries.”
Anticipating label approval, and a subsequent debut LP within months, the band are currently on tour, turning people onto their EP of bedroom psychedelia entitled “Update My High.”
The future looks bright, as Dan concludes, with good times ahead “In two years hopefully we won’t see The Breezes, hopefully people will see us. The party is starting very soon…”
If that’s the case, count me in.
The Breezes will be performing in Toronto on March. 24 at Wrongbar
Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain
4 out of 5 stars
There can be something positively terrifying about a performance that makes you tense. What Michael Shannon miraculously achieves in Take Shelter goes beyond that, and into embodiment.
With courage, talent and vulnerability, he takes the viewer into the mind of an early-onset schizophrenic, revealing a man torn between apocalyptic premonitions and his relationships with family and friends.
The movie opens on Curtis (Shannon), a construction worker with growing concerns about the clouds and greasy rain that persistently loom over his land. Inside his household we enter domestic normality, where his loving wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), attentively upholds family breakfasts and points of discussion. Together they raise their deaf preschooler in what feels like parental conviction and not plot contrivance.
Early in Take Shelter, we become familiar with Curtis’ work routine, as well as his loyal co-worker, Dewart (Sean Whigham). Similarly, Samantha’s outside life is explored, as she divides her time between entrepreneurial interests and her daughter’s sign language classes.
The film shifts though, and soon Curtis begins suffering from night terrors that consume his consciousness. The dreams retain similar motifs of unruly storms that turn familiar faces into murderous souls. In one instance, a vicious nightmare involving the beloved family dog leaves Curtis with a mysteriously sore arm and distrust towards the canine.
When his visions cease to curtail and begin to extend into real life delusions, the separation between prophecy and lunacy symbolically merge with the construction of a backyard storm shelter.
The film is so delicate, so entrenched in Curtis’ intensity that you hold your breath as his social sphere starts breaking away. Events of grave consequence take effect and soon the heart of the film splits into two unsettling realisms: the whispering gossip of his sanity, and the confidence of his own doom’s day suspicions.
Michael Shannon inhabits his extraordinary performance with a scary charisma that cannot be described, but observed. He knows he has a problem. He knows he needs help. When the story reveals a family history of mental illness, he seeks counseling. Hopelessly, the sessions amount to no more than empty compassion and textbook rhetoric, leaving Curtis, and us, in a state of despondency.
The movie excels through its braveness, which requires our empathy as we interpret the decisions made. Why does Curtis insist on building something so absurd at the risk of losing everything? How the film balances dream logic with the disintegration of relationships, marriage and finances is one of its great strengths.
It is precisely the brand of drama that defines Take Shelter, investing heavily in emotional paranoia, as well as post- 9/11 angst and uncertainty.
For a picture of such power, it is refreshing to see the restraint that director Jeff Nichols brings to the narrative. Wisely, he avoids religious aspects of Curtis’ apocalypse and keeps it very close to life, making forces of nature vengeful and destructive right until the very end.
Many films have addressed the plight of mental health, but few rarely seem to live them out. This one does it with a quiet fearlessness that has you thinking days afterwards.