Published on March 26th, 2024 | by Matt Stinn


Unproductive – Untitled EP – Album Review

Unproductive is a band best described in extremes. Constant pushes and pulls between dissonant lulls and intimate expression juxtaposed against a roaring cacophony, backing up the frantic shouts of vocalist Declan Hills. In the band’s four song debut EP, they cover ground ranging from shoegaze to post-rock and successfully sell me on why I should care about  MLB’s collective bargaining agreement.

As a music fan, I tend to find myself dissecting an artist’s writing. The meat and potatoes of it all. Structures, progressions, underlicks and hooks. I’m endlessly fascinated by a song’s ability (or lack of) to sell me on a topic or emotion that I was disconnected from three to five minutes earlier. In my opinion a massive strength that this debut brings to the table is four very unique songs, both in topic and structure, that kept me listening and engaged for its short thirteen minute runtime.

Right out of the gate the listener is hit in the face as ‘Victoria’ slams in with a simplistic but effective repetitive chord lead by drummer Nathan Henry and bassist Steve Adams. These two provide a dense groove that perfectly provides structures for an arpeggiated piano line provided by the band’s key player, ZOË. In terms of the vocal and guitar performances, this track reads the most like a traditional alternative song. Three verses, a bridge, and three choruses; a trick to entice first time listeners into the untitled EP. 

‘MLBCBA’ immediately follows, the band’s safer offering with a distorted bass intro that can only be described as filthy. Paired with a verse beat that draws a familiar backbeat bounce from disco, the band sets the stage for a significantly more playful and upbeat track than the opener. Again, a trick. At its core, this is a pro-union song tackling the intricacies of the MLB collective bargaining agreement. While being widely informative, the lyrics take pot-shots at corporate greed and the absurdities of the system. It’s also the first showing of guitarist Declan Hill’s completely unhinged approach to a guitar solo. Between moments of harsh whammy noise, he effortlessly injects licks that rival the catchiness of the song’s chorus. This song being pushed as the lead single makes total sense. It’s weird, but not too weird. Catchy, but not straying too far from the post rock and shoegaze influences that they advertise.

Track three is a doozy. ‘Hope You Don’t’ comes across as the outlier on this EP for me. Off the top, the rhythm section seems to keep step with the previous tracks and offers a driving backbone for the song. The guitar, however, only enters at the end of the first verse with  a bleak single note lead that eventually gives way to a wash of vaguely atonal chording. This track’s choruses are held together by the addition of a granular synth tone and Declan’s shouts. This chorus doesn’t quite hit with the same weight as the previous tracks and is a welcomed reprieve. Full transparency now – I’m not a shoegaze aficionado (or fan for that matter) but I do firmly believe that this song dips into that territory and executes the desired effect well. As a more pop-based listener, I crave hooks, structure, and underlicks – these were given to me in spades at the the 2:12 mark of the song.  Seemingly out of nowhere, the track dries up and drops into a three over four polyrhythm line that immediately makes me think of early Strokes material. This change is accented by bassist Steve Adams grabbing the vocal reigns and introducing a counter melody vocal that Declan later jumps on to help complete a final chorus form. This change was surprising, jarring, effective, and welcomed!

Rounding out the EP is ‘Maker.’ This song is my personal favorite on the record for multiple reasons. Structurally, it’s a relatively strange song with choruses based in 7 as well as featuring the introduction of bass duties being covered by a synthesizer. This is certainly the track to best showcase Declan’s vocal range. Jumping from soft and intimate verses to shouty choruses, a bleak and desperate sounding bridge and a final chorus that reminds me of a Brandon Flowers (The Killers) performance. I found myself listening most to the vocals on this track. All that paired together with a grumpy Stephen Harper reference (fuck that guy) and I’m sold! 

I’ve heard a lot of debut releases from bands in my local scene. Some are great and some, unfortunately, aren’t. The fact of the matter is that some people are great lyricists and some spend years trying to hone a craft they seem poorly suited for. Unproductive seem to have skipped the latter and jumped straight into a cohesive project with a firm trajectory and a strong sense of self. I found their debut effort enjoyable, thoughtful, intelligently arranged, and executed well. I eagerly await a follow up from the Saskatoon foursome.

Audio –

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is a Saskatoon-based award winning producer, touring musician, and cat lover. When not working in the music industry he hones his skills as an amateur writer and professional little spoon.

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