With their new album Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi, Calgary-based duo Miesha and the Spanks will restore your faith in modern-day rock music. In a perfect world, this band and this album would be absolutely massive. As I considered the strength of the advance singles and the assurances of a label owner friend of mine that this album was something truly special, I identified Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi as one of my most highly anticipated LPs of 2023. I jotted the name of the album down on my big board and circled my calendar. But even though I was fully expecting to love this record, I'm still totally blown away by this Mint Records release. My god, this album is a monster! If hard-rocking music with huge, anthemic hooks and powerful lyrics & vocals sounds good to you, you need to stop reading my nonsense immediately and go hit that "buy" button.
One thing I appreciate about Miesha and the Spanks is that they have an unassailable set of influences yet still have a sound that is fully their own. And the talent of the band members truly shines. Miesha Louie is a phenomenal singer and gifted lyricist who kicks ass on guitar. Sean Hamilton is one of the most exciting drummers in modern-day rock and roll. The cliché about guitar/drum duos is that they don't need a bass player. Sometimes that's total BS, but it's absolutely true in the case of this band! With a little musical accompaniment from producers Daniel Farrant and Paul Rawson, these two exemplify what a "power duo" ought to be. While the band's sound is so closely linked with Miesha Louie's bold, impassioned vocals, its musical style is a perfect mix of just about everything that's awesome. In these songs, I can hear elements of everything from '90s punk and alternative rock to power pop to old school garage rock to proto punk to proper modern rock. This record somehow manages to fresh and new in 2023 even as it reminds me of music I've loved for decades.
With so many of these songs having already been released as singles, I was curious to hear how it would all come together. Well, it comes together absolutely marvelously. Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi doesn't feel like a collection of singles. It's a singular work of art that tells a story. Several tracks are preceded by brief introductions, and the songs flow into each other seamlessly. I love that Miesha Louie writes and sings about the things that matter to her. These songs are her life, and thus they cover a wide range of themes and emotions. "Dig Me Out," last year's chilling single about the horrors of residential schools, is the leadoff song and a perfect tone-setter for an album on which Louie's mixed-Secwépemc heritage looms large. "So Mad," a powerful sing-along anthem about the day-to-day realities women must face, is especially relevant in the light of recent events in American politics. I like to imagine people all over the world singing along to this track at the top of their lungs. "Bear Kids" is one of the most extraordinary songs I've heard in ages. It connects the death of Louie's father to the birth of her twins and is literally a healing ritual in song. "Mom Jeans // Mom Genes" finds Louie reflecting on the new mom experience and all the changes, struggles, and joys that come with it. On "GRLSROK," Louie shares her story of how she became a rock and roll super hero and encourages the girls of today to follow in her footsteps. "Heart on Fire" is another rousing anthem — a song which celebrates that feeling in your soul when you know you've arrived at an awesome moment in your life. Album closer "I Was Gonna" finds Louie and Hamilton humorously recounting all the things they were "going" to do before life got in the way. The song pairs nicely with "It's My Year," which is literally the other side of the coin. At some point, you find the will to overcome all obstacles and realize some of those hopes and dreams (except for hiring a bass player).
Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi is a triumph for a number of reasons. Of course the songs rock and compel you to sing along. But at a deeper level, this is a remarkably relatable set of songs. And this album is true to life, with the tone of the songs ranging from angry to inspiring to somber to triumphant to reflective to playful. In telling her own story about processing grief, overcoming self-doubt, adapting to change, and finding the things that set her soul on fire, Miesha Louie is telling the story of a lot of people. In one of the album's most quotable lines, Louie sings "Needed to learn the words to every song from Very Necessary/Yeah it was very necessary to me." I couldn't hear/read that lyric without thinking that numerous young girls are going to feel the same way about Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi and start their own bands because of it. If you don't like this record, you don't like music.