Canada has produced some of the greatest rock bands to define their respective subgenres, from Sum41 and Three Days Grace to Nickelback (okay the last one is debatable). Now with the release of Toronto’s Selfish Things’ debut EP Vertical Love, you can add them to the list too.
This release follows on from their unofficial teaser EP Six Songs, a collection of six singles brought out in 2017, as well as featuring cover artwork by artist and infamous radio DJ Daniel P. Carter of the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show. The tracks heard on Vertical Love vary from heavy alt-rock ballads such as ‘8147 Mullholland Terrace’, to acoustic guitar-led ‘Without You’; with the latter particularly highlighting vocalist Alex Biro’s ability to hold a track tight within his grasp, while the former features an anthemic chorus driven by clear double bass kicks and massive gang vocals, it's radio ready in the best way possible. Each song manages to stand out with their own individual hooks without blurring together or sounding too similar.
The main theme of this EP is Biro’s struggle with religion, in which he poses a nihilistic approach to our existence and attempts to change his outlook. ‘Rust Cohle Never Sleeps’ in particular implies this, referencing Matthew McConaughey’s character in HBO’s crime drama TV series True Detective, who is known for his pessimistic views on the existence of a higher power. Biro’s more subdued vocals here insinuate a bitter attitude, accompanied by lyrics such as “God isn’t here, he left us all to live alone and live in fear”. He goes on to question whether our choices are made out of free-will or part of God’s supposed plan we have no control over. ‘8147 Mullholland Terrace’ echoes this whilst understanding the traumas we have to go through for the sake of being human. This whole EP is a product of him figuring all this out, which causes strong, thought-provoking lyrics that refuse to go unheard.
Biro’s vocals are powerful and he doesn’t hold back in showing off his range. Slow, emotive track ‘Five Years’ showcases a raw style reminiscent to that of indie singer/songwriter Michael Rosenburg, better known as Passenger. His unique, raspy voice is one that sticks with you and helps this band stand out against others in the genre as he doesn’t revert to over-the-top, rough vocals for every track.
The only outstanding issue with Vertical Love is the way in which they choose to round it off. Minor piano tune ‘1435’, which closes the EP, is the only track which can be directly interpreted as a love song, where the lyrics are not ambiguous or full of religious confusion. However, this emotion-filled, slowed-down and stripped-back song is not their best, especially after the mammoth of an outro heard in previous track ‘Hangman’. Where ‘1435’ simply dissipates into nothing, heavy belter ‘Hangman’ (similar to We Are The Ocean) fades out from eerie gang vocals following on from a huge instrumental featuring a powerful guitar solo from Michael Ticar. This song is one of their strongest and, with such an unforgettable and resonating outro, it would have enhanced an otherwise perfect EP.
Selfish Things have produced a debut that could challenge even some of the biggest names in alternative rock, and have set a new criteria all bands should meet: gigantic choruses, a thought-provoking reaction to an existential crisis, and Matthew McConaughey character references.