Published Jun 23, 2020Whether it's through R&B riffs or floaty acoustic ballads, Jonah Yano expresses his emotions on family separation, healing, and the longing for connection on his dreamy debut album, souvenir. The songwriter began sharing his music after moving from Vancouver to Toronto in 2016. His 2019 EP, nervous, as well as his many collaborations with Toronto band BADBADNOTGOOD, were met with acclaim. souvenir shows Yano at his most vulnerable and creative, as he seamlessly blends genres onto a deeply personal debut.
The 11 tracks are a tight yet vast exploration of the separation of Yano's parents in 1998, his coming of age journey, and the absence of his father for a portion of his life. Each track adds onto the sounds and themes of the last, like the smooth-as-butter "delicate" to the smoky and hypnotic clarinet on "monarch," amplifying feelings of loneliness. "strawberry!" is the album's most ambitious track, lulling listeners before shocking them with abrasive percussions and trippy, psychedelic guitar solos. "what can i do to help," an instrumental with reverberating synths that sound like they're coming from the inside of one's head, displays Yano's avant-garde capabilities.
It's the ending, however, that perfectly ties the project together in the most satisfying and touching way. "shoes," featuring Tatsuya Muraoka — Yano's father — shows the father-and-son duo reunited for the first time in 15 years. Most of the song was originally recorded in the '90s in Hiroshima by Muraoka. Yano adds his vocals in English verses while Muraoka sings the choruses in Japanese. Muraoka concluding the album with Yano after everything that came before it is a tear-jerking and sweet way to leave listeners. souvenir is a cool yet stunning debut that plays to all of Yano's strengths. (Innovative Leisure)