By Kerry Doole
Bernice - Underneath My Toe. (Telephone Explosion). This critically-lauded experimental pop combo from Toronto has just announced that a new album, Cruisin', is set for release on April 23 on Telephone Explosion, preceded by this lead single. The group's fourth effort follows on from 2021's full-length Eau De Bonjourno.
In a label press release, Bernice songwriter/vocalist Robin Dann describes the track this way: "We were really missing our friend Devon Sproule. We were missing a lot of friends back when we wrote this album. Thom [Gill] and I sat down and asked ourselves what we wanted to say to her, what does any friend want to say to their pal who's far away?
"Toe became the balm for the missing feeling, and when we shared it with her, she (as usual) distilled the feeling perfectly, saying 'It feels like two important things smooshed together: how complicated it feels to be a person, and to live with other people, in a house or a city…and then how simple love can feel, like love from an animal friend, or how it feels to be connected to the Earth."
From a soft beginning, the cut gradually expands in scope, with Dann's clear, unaffected vocals always to the fore atop keyboard fills. A short (2.48) and sweet charmer, it reminds us a little of Jane Siberry's work.
The press release notes that "the development of Cruisin' began in Spring, 2021 during a writing retreat at a family farm in Bond Head, Ontario. Members of the band luxuriated in slow time, tinkering with lyrics and melodies, sharing meals, and knitting. From this communal gathering, the concept of 'dedication' emerged as a guiding theme. Specifically, developing songs in an almost epistolary form as love letters or check-ins for friends, community members, pets and other more elusive acquaintances (a longtime working title for the project was "Songs For People")."
The idiosyncratic sound of Bernice has yet to bring them significant commercial success in Canada, but the band's earlier work has elicited fulsome praise from the likes of Pitchfork, The New York Times, Stereogum, NPR, and more. Pioneering electronic artist Beverly Glenn-Copeland is a major fan, declaring "the vision is extraordinary and it's musically so exciting." The two previous Bernice albums were both longlisted by the Polaris Music Prize.
Bernice's debut record arrived in 2011, but a sophomore full-length, Puff, didn't appear until 2018. The fact that the group's release rate is picking up in pace is good news.
Publicity: Hive Mind PR