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First Play: Unbuttoned, Liquid

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Del Cowie

Toronto quartet Unbuttoned has been developing its infectious brand of alternative pop for the past few years. Led by Royal Conservatory-trained multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Casey MQ — who often sings in tandem with soulful singer Kamilah Apong — the group's additional foundational heft is provided by Miles Gibbons and Alexei Orechin. There's an inquisitiveness to Unbuttoned’s music that rarely stays in one lane, but is always marked by a meticulous and intricate approach to arrangement and production.

This formula is borne out on Unbuttoned's latest album, Liquid (release date Aug. 8), with the band rifling through a myriad of musical styles. The vulnerable power-pop on lead single "Bedroom Fall" is followed in quick succession by the lip-curled digital dub distortion of "Soft Thing" and the shiny guitar dreamscape of "Crystal Growth." If anything, this eclectic sonic diversion is not only indicative of the band's versatile prowess, but also of its audacious and seemingly inexhaustible appetite for inventive and experimental sounds.

And because of Unbuttoned's expertise, songs like "Womxn Cry" can mix powerful messages without sacrificing the groove. Sporting a propulsive house beat, Apong's freeform vocals are actually part of a suite of defiant self-articulation.

“A breaking, a snapping, dying, resurrection," says Apong, describing the track in a statement. "A deep love for self, and a deep hate of self. What it looks like, sometimes, when I lose my mind. What it sounds like to fall back in love with myself.”

It's evident, then, that Casey MQ (who has composed scores for film in addition to working as a multi-instrumentalist with artists like Zaki Ibrahim) and Apong (who organizes Hummingbird, a safer open stage catering to the youth of Toronto's Regent Park community) authentically value freedom of expression in their music, and the genre-agnostic Liquid is an impressive statement of that fact.

Pre-order Unbuttoned's album Liquid here.