Public Domain (Independent)
This fascinating debut from Vancouver duo Fine Mist would have been received as a high-concept parody 10 years ago. In fact, back at the dawn of time (the early ’90s), a local synth duo called Red Sector One was making precisely this kind of music to the utter bemusement of anyone who couldn’t forget Yaz fast enough.
But future Douglas Couplands take note: Fine Mist’s reality-challenging mix of resolutely old-school synth sounds, irresistibly simple dance beats, and vocalist Megan McDonald’s super-earnest and double-bleak tales of heartbreak provide an almost impossibly current (and engaging) snapshot of the Vancouver cultural fringe. Somehow, keyboardist Jay Arner dredges up some of the most ludicrous Billboard ’80s electronic sounds this side of a Michael Sembello record—please check the squelchy-fartsy middle eight in “O Wake” for reference—without ever pushing the irony meter into the red.
Meanwhile, McDonald bleeds in grand style across the 11 tracks on Public Domain, as if it’s her last will and testament. “I’m sick, I’ve railed against your ownership!” she gasps with a hint of tearful vibrato in “I Can’t Stand It”, and in “When No One’s Home” she pushes out the words “I’m done with us now, if we weren’t done before” with ice-cold deliberation. Because she means it, baby. And so does Arner. Even if Fine Mist might sound like high-class fromage to anybody who remembers Soft Cell the first time around, it’s better than that. On tracks as instant as “Stop or Start”—perhaps the greatest hit Dalbello never had—Public Domain is genuinely delicious.