Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped them get through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them.
If it’s a given that an artist’s environment directly shapes their creativity, then it speaks volumes that Dana Sipos lived a good portion of her life in the far north and now resides within the old growth forests on Vancouver Island. These are places where time seems elongated, and sound travels further distances.
That may be one way to describe the songs on Sipos’s fourth album, The Astral Plane, out June 25 on Roaring Girl Records. It follows her acclaimed 2018 release Trick Of The Light, and finds her once again working with Toronto producer Sandro Perri, whose sonic adventurousness consistently enhances the mystical elements of Sipos’s songwriting.
The Astral Plane is a deeply personal nine-song collection, touching on themes of loss and inherited trauma—specifically, in songs such Skinny Legs, the lives of Sipos’s maternal grandparents who were both Holocaust survivors—as well as the current global ecological crisis on songs like Hoodoo.
But overall, The Astral Plane is a haunting showcase for Sipos’s unorthodox approach to traditional musical forms, which in many ways aims directly at the listener’s subconscious. The more she reveals of herself in her music, the more it seems to reveal about ourselves. Find out more at danasipos.com
Essential Album: Arthur Russell, Another Thought (Point Music, 1994)
I love Arthur Russell’s music so much, and his Another Thought was on repeat throughout the past year and a half. I find it deeply meditative, with enough spaciousness to sort of drift off while at the same time staying tethered to the trancelike nature of many of the songs.
Essential Book: Jessica Moore, The Whole Singing Ocean (Nightwood Editions, 2020)
This is such a rich book. It is essentially a long poem, full of luminous exploration. Jessica is also a friend, and we realized when both my album and her novel were incubating that they both held up a mirror to memories, often painful ones, and scratched at the surface of climate grief and anxiety.
Essential TV: Big Mouth (Netflix)
I loved all the seasons, but last year’s [Season 4] delved deeper and gave their BIPOC, femme, queer and trans characters a lot of airtime with the show’s sometimes strange and never-nuanced humour.
Essential Movie: Nomadland (2020)
This was a really beautiful and moving film. I like films that don’t necessarily have a clear beginning, middle or end because it feels like you're getting a glimpse into an actual moving picture. It also felt very authentic because it was—a large portion of the cast was played by real-life “nomads.” Frances McDormand is such a brilliant actor, of course. And it’s rad that the writer and director, Chloé Zhao, became the first woman of colour to win the Oscar for Best Director with this film.