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Performer Notes
  • Centered around the theme of renewal, Sam Roberts' sixth studio album, 2016's Terraform, finds the Canadian singer/songwriter delivering an infectious blend of groove-oriented rock and literate, melodic pop that speaks to his continued longevity. Technically speaking, terraforming is the theoretical process by which humans could make a planet habitable to live on. It's a tantalizing concept, and Roberts has repurposed it here as a metaphor for rebirth -- one that could easily be applied to Roberts' career. While a well-known Juno Award-winning performer in his native Canada, Roberts remains a cult favorite in the States. With his throaty croon soaring through twangy folk-rock and funky psychedelia, Roberts often brings to mind a surprising combination of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie. It's a vibe that's been especially present on his more recent albums, and Terraform is no exception. Recorded at the Tragically Hip's Bathouse Recording Studios in Kingston, Ontario, Terraform was produced by Roberts in collaboration with Holy Fuck's Graham Walsh. In some ways, the album is a continuation of the layered, dance-inflected approach Roberts' favored on his previous album, 2014's similarly engaging Fantasy. While Roberts has certainly accented these tracks with a liberal smattering of percussive electronic beats and glowing synths, the dance influence on Terraform is more about borrowing the arranging style, inventive rhythms, and club-ready momentum of genres like EDM, trip-hop, dub, and '80s-style new wave. Cuts like "If You Want It," "Roll with the Spirits," and the propulsive "FIEND" are spacy, bass-heavy numbers that immediately beg you to start moving your hips. Roberts also blends his various influences, combining Nick Cave's doomy punk-blues and Violator-era Depeche Mode on the moody "Black Spark." Similarly, his driving, Teutonic "Ritual Dance" brings to mind both Kraftwerk and the Strokes' Julian Casablancas. Elsewhere, Roberts offers up several lyrical anthems with the chiming folk-rock of "Rogue Empire," and the yearning, buoyant "Lake Effect." If Terraform does little to diminish the notion that Roberts is one of the best kept secrets of Canadian pop, it goes a long way in promoting the idea that it's never too late to make a new discovery. As he sings on the title track, "Ooh, the world is ours/Wait for the seeds to flower/We're starting over come on." ~ Matt Collar
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