Andrew Sisk can fit a lot into three minutes. In each track on his new six-song EP Antarcticalia, he does in that timespan what many musicians are unable to do with more. Grab attention, create a scene and let go at just the right moment. He sings intimately over a gentle and sometimes sparse arrangement that gradually evolves as additional instruments are layered on. Once he’s set up the plot and all the layers are in place, he passes the spotlight to the music, letting it take centre stage as it continues to build, coming alive to carry the listener through to the end. There’s never any filler, no unnecessary repetition or interludes that take the song off focus, and there’s never a moment when it feels too long or too short. This is a skill many lack that Andrew has mastered.
The New Brunswick-born songwriter calls his approach to writing and recording a “process of catharsis and documenting experience.” In the appropriately titled ‘Bad News’, both come into play as he acknowledges his inability to avoid the news and how that effects his treatment of others. His resolution is for them to return those frustrations back to him, perhaps to serve as a distraction from it, as he sings, “I take it out on you/so give it back to me/because I need a remedy.”
This catharsis goes even further in a song about landlords. On ‘Bad Landlord’, Andrew praises the good ones – those who provide homes for some of the most vulnerable, while he acknowledges he himself isn’t that lucky with a very relatable sentiment: “Heaven holds a place for good landlords/so I leave you in hell you stupid son of a bitch.”
Even if you’ve never heard of Andrew Sisk before, there’s something comforting about his music that goes beyond his soothing voice. Often times, Antarcticalia sounds like a familiar memory. The combination of acoustic pop and bossa nova elements are reminiscent of Norweigen singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche’s earliest material as they get fused with hooky aggressive synths harkening back to Tegan and Sara’s So Jealous era, with the reckless precision of the New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema.
Coincidentally – or maybe not so, each of these comparisons lend themselves to the first half of the 2000s, suggesting that Andrew’s approach to nostalgia is purposefully done as he appeals to listeners craving something more raw than much of today’s music has to offer while still incorporating modern qualities in his music. If anything, this album is a reminder that everything in music is cyclical. After 90s-pop influenced much of the music of the past several years, we’re about to move into the next wave of nostalgia with the onset of the indie pop that came to prominence in the 2000s.
Antarcticalia is an easy album to get into, both due to its length (just under 18 minutes from start to finish) and lavish melodies, but no two listens are alike. There’s enough detail that each play-through has something new to offer and something different to focus on. It really hits all the right elements.