It was with great anticipation that I bought Edmonton singer-songwriter Cayley Thomas’ first full-length album, Weird Love. I had been impressed with her EP Ash Mountains a few years ago, although it seemed a little scattered, like Thomas was trying on different musical costumes, all of them a little retro, and all quite fetching. Weird Love, while still devotedly retro, is much more focused, and more than a little addictive. The album is emphatically about Love, none of it actually terribly weird love. Here there is addictive love, aged love, teen love, bitter love, broken love, depressive love and sibling love. The overall tone is upbeat, but not unbroken by serious depth and hurt and poetry. While not perfect, “Weird Love” is eminently listenable, and pretty addictive itself.
The album opens with a driving drum and bass soon joined by guitar and synth and finally by Thomas in an crisply aetherial haunting love song filled with marvellously fresh and strong imagery called “Clementine”. I’m still trying to figure out the end of the song. Somehow it seems like the band just isn’t sure of how to wind it all up musically, and I can’t help feeling a little let down after such a ripping performance.
“What If/I Wish”, with drug references and fortune tellers upstairs and dreams revisits psychedelia and time slips away. A bit of a Midnight Cowgirl vibe happening here.
The third track, “Sure is Nice”, sure is! Another love song, this one is everything good about the Poppy Family, GoGos, The Association. This is a joyous, a little bubble-gummy, summer time single with hit potential. While “Clementine” has a greater lyrical depth, “Sure is Nice” is so catchy! But, again, a bit of wandering at the fade, but somehow with a late sixties feel, which is a positive.
In my notes while listening to the title track “Weird Love”, I began simply with “Wow!” “Weird Love” is love growing old and bitter, but yet more than a little sweet. The insight this young woman brings to a slowly evolving experience she’s not had time to have is quite remarkable. Again the retro feel in the arrangement. I was thinking for some reason of moments of Bowie circa 1969, “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud”, “Letter to Hermione”, etc.
After a jolly, wistful little do-da-dum piece called “Chirp Chirp”, it’s summer of about ’62 on the way to a beach party with “Hey You”. Professions of eternal love. Grease is the word, it’s a good word when Thomas is crooning “. . . till the end of time.” And then, a “Commercial Break” — elevator music with a wink.
“I’ve Lost My Mind” is a twist: Juju era Siouxie and the Banshees with a really fine vocalist. Real-world depression pressed into a Goth depressive mold.
When you’re still in love but they’ve fallen out of love with you and into love with someone else . . .
“Heart in Two” deals with an all too real thing that could be horrible as a song but Thomas does this torchy blues thing that comes out sounding like an old standard you can almost remember hearing before, but you haven’t.
It’s love again in the ominously titled “Lines”, love of an obsessive unhealthiness, addiction, “Cocaine on Tuesday” and the repeated “Where do we go from here” and “Hope you don’t take it too far.” The closing crescendo and harshly cut off tone-that-goes-on-forever is a tremendous lead-in to . . .
“Alan Alexander”,an almost wordless paean, an ode, an elegy, a threnody, a celebration, and just perhaps, a letting go.
For some years I’ve been saying that Cayley Thomas is a person to watch, at first in Edmonton’s theatre scene, but later mostly for her music and voice. With Weird Love I hope and expect that she’ll be opening more ears to her music, and more doors for her career.
Weird Love by Cayley Thomas is available for download and on cd and vinyl at Bandcamp.