A Sparkling First Effort: Luna Li’s Opal Angel

words / KEEGAN HUGHES pictures / ANDRÉ VARTY + EMMA ROBINSON

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Following a productive songwriting summer, Hannah Bussiere faced a conundrum.  As the lead in the Toronto garage rock outfit Luna Li, she wanted to produce a full-length album.  With the help of bandmate Braden Sauder, along with his studio known as Marquee Sound, this shouldn’t have been too difficult.  However, Bussiere had noticed a distinct difference between the songs she had written already, and new music she was working on.  Whatever the product would end up being, she wanted it to be cohesive.  Upon realizing this, the multi-instrumentalist set out to polish what she already had, and move on from it.

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This decision gave form to the Opal Angel EP.  With two dazzling music videos accompanying songs from the short album, Luna Li has done a pretty killer job promoting their work. 

OPAL ANGEL

Faraway vocal harmonies swirl around Hannah Bussiere’s twinkling, spacy lead guitar as this song gently eases you into the four-song EP.  The effect is so hypnotic, one might find themselves singing along to the gorgeous backup singing.  An overdriven guitar lead gives a little punch to the eardrums between verses, giving the song a good bit of variety.

Bussiere wrote and produced the song for a music production course at Seneca College years back, but decided the tune needed a respectable remix if she were to use it as the title track.  Her voice takes on a haunting timbre as she sings, painting images of wine-stained lips and romantic trysts in parking lots.

NEED A LIL LOVE

A song about catcalling, Bussiere describes Need a Lil Love as a song about “creepy dudes and how they should not be in your life right now.”

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Photo © André Varty

This sentiment can be felt in the decidedly more upbeat tempo, and lyrics that don’t beat around the bush.  Bussiere sounds angry, and the instruments are less flowery, more pushing.  It sounds like a fight song, one listened to before a brawl.  At some points elements of the Black Keys can be heard, as tightly harmonized guitars break through and drums take over.  The song strips itself down to nothing before a hectic crescendo and a horn-adorned finale.

STAR STUFF

Dancy and driven, Star Stuff is the energetic epicenter of the EP.  Kicking off with a burly, crunchy guitar riff, it does not let up.  The catchy chorus refrain of “learn how to breathe,” makes this a song one finds themselves singing along to on the first listen.

From the very beginning, this song was meant to be more upbeat than the rest of the EP.  Bussiere noticed that much of her set at live shows was slow and mellow, and wanted to build a tune around a livelier beat.  This affected the lyrics as well, as it began from a negative experience.  As it developed, the theme shifted towards positivity and beauty.  Carl Sagan is cited as an inspiration, famously quoted as saying “we are made of starstuff.”

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Photo © Emma Robinson

“We are all unique and beautiful,” according to Bussiere.

GHOSTING

A song often heard during breaks in live sets, Ghosting is slow and soft.  The picked chords are slowly joined by carefully arranged violin to create a sound that is both luxurious and simple.  Closing out the album, it echoes in one’s mind and then disappears into reverent silence.  It’s like a deep breath taken after finishing a chapter in a book or watching the end of a sad movie.

One issue with the EP is the lack of new material.  All four of the tracks have been released before in some form, or have been performed regularly by the band at shows.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are a new fan, but it leaves those familiar with Luna Li itching for something new.

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Photo © Emma Robinson

On the Opal Angel EP Luna Li plays to its strengths, namely dreamy guitars and synths along with strong pop songwriting.  I’m looking forward to a full-length endeavor in the near future, hopefully with some new sounds and ideas.

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