I adore an album that feels retro while still hitting you like a breath of fresh air! And man do I ever need some fresh air right now, and a haircut, and more consistent showers but I digress. What We Started (released April 17th 2020), the latest full length album from Ottawa Ontario’s Paragon Cause does exactly that. Their influences are instantly recognizable and throwback to the 80’s synth pop of Depeche Mode, as well as some 90’s trip hop flavour a la Portishead. But there’s a lot more at work here. Just as much as Paragon Cause are saying “look where we came from,” they are announcing “check out where we’re going.”
Let’s start with the track “Something New” because the title suggests I’m on the right track with this theory. There’s undoubtedly some of that sultry, 80’s Depeche Mode quasi goth/dance motifs here. But it’s the vocals of keyboardist/singer Michelle Opthof that take us more into uncharted indie territory. Somewhat brighter and less sombre than David Gahan of Depeche Mode, ultimately begging the question, can goth be happy?
On the more trip hoppier side of things are tracks like “Give It a Chance” and “Silent Prayer,” which better lend themselves to Opthof’s vocals. Moody and introspective without ever fully losing their danceable quality, Paragon Cause carve out their own sound through electronic grooves and heavy vocal effects that never tarnish Opthof’s voice, only compliment and uplift it; mother fucking studio wizardry at its finest. My go to question with these types of setups is always, “can the band replicate this studio sound live?” I imagine with the state of things, we shant know for a while, but I’m nothing if not a patient man, as evidenced by how long I’ve put up with this horrible, unruly quarantine hair.
Paragon Cause never rest on their laurels, touching base with certain genres only for brief moments before venturing off onto new grounds. This is everything I look for in an artist or album. I’ll even suggest that the band venture off further into the unknown. Get even weirder in the studio, dabble in new noise, smash genres together, smash genres to pieces! So much of that is already at work here on What We Started, now it’s just time to finish it.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*Edited by Dominic Abate