For the inaugural release of an imprint with deep roots in both Berlin and Montréal, there could hardly be a more appropriate record than Maybe Unlock My Heart. Written mostly in a room on Berlin's Pannierstraße, its sounds constructed on the road, it has themes of long-distance longing that speak to the transatlantic span between the two cities, which seem to share a certain affinity as cosmopolitan cultural centers left oddly detached from their surroundings by the vagaries of history.
Antoine93 cites Céline Dion as an important influence. In another context this might seem like of hip posturing, the invertedly-edgy appropriation of the very middle of the pop mainstream. Coming from a fellow Québécois, backed by this charged, direct music, it comes across as the convincing sublimation of a pop superstar.
As exemplified by lead single "Extra Strong" Maybe Unlock My Heart is as full of classic House synth leads, as it is up-to-the-minute retro-digital chimes, bleeps, and swoops that echoes UK dance sounds, amongst other genres. Yet Antoine93 seems far less interested in genre tributes or complexly folded ironic topographies than in crafting intimate dialogues, confident declarations of identity, and other beguiling pop confessionals. Appropriately, the element even more striking than the bright and punchy production is Antoine's voice, whether singing of drugs, doubt, or self-discovery. Indeed, Antoine93 might have the most combined talent as producer, singer and songwriter we've heard since Matthew Dear or perhaps Autre Ne Veut'.
It's this balancing of careful, creative sound design with heartfelt songwriting and delivery that makes Maybe Unlock My Heart a vibrant and fun record, even when it dwells, as Antoine93 says, not only on love but on depression and insanity. The invocation of Céline Dion is no mistake, this is a Pop record. But it's one that withstands heavy repeated listening, making nonsense of the term "guilty pleasure" What's there's to be guilty about here?
released December 12, 2014
All songs written and produced by Antoine Lahaie except I Like 2 Get High, co-written by Pascale Mercier, and Do Life, produced by Ben Borden and David Ertel with additional vocals by David Ertel. Guest vocals on Extra Strong and I Like To Get High by Pascale Mercier. Mixed and mastered by Patrick Gregoire at Banko Gotiti studios in Montreal.