When carefully crafted and properly executed, music can be truly powerful: it can connect with you, alter your mood, and evoke deep emotions. The first EP by Ottawa’s XiL, “If I Should Live Forever, Then Know That I Am Dead Inside”, achieves all of this within the space of its six profoundly affecting tracks. It’s a commanding debut that resonates long after the last notes have faded.
This passionately emotive scene is brought to life by a three-piece alt-rock crew made up of Liam Hoselton (vox/guitar), Eric Woodrow (bass), and Quddus Gordon (drums). Together, they explore — and ultimately conquer — some scarcely covered territory, offering listeners a refreshingly unique approach and a daringly original piece of work: a short story set to music. Representing the first entry in what promises to be an audacious seven-part series, this EP tells a heartbreaking tale from the perspective of two characters, Jon and Jane, who are in the throes of an ill-fated relationship.
While “If I Should Live Forever” deals with painfully weighty topics like abuse, alcoholism and suicide, XiL’s lyrical and musical prowess in navigating this incredibly challenging space proves that beauty can still exist within sadness. It’s a testament to their skill and to the perfect pairing of material and delivery that the music remains consistently catchy, compelling you to sing along despite the pitch-black themes and the anvil-heavy topics at hand.
Hoselton’s vocal delivery is particularly effective in conveying the characters’ honest, raw emotion that it’s hard to not become completely invested in their journey. It’s haunting, heart-wrenching and poignant, and yet it somehow continues to compel you to keep listening. The opening track, “Tree Frog”, is a perfect example of how easy it is to become wrapped up in this story:
This narrative-driven approach works so well in part because XiL wholly commits to it, which becomes especially clear from their Facebook page, where they outline its appropriately finite nature: “We as a band write conceptually based music that tells the story of characters and worlds that we have conceived out of our heads. While we are still writing and working out the details about these characters and the worlds in which they live, we believe all good stories must have an end. As such, we will only ever release seven major projects as a band.”
It seems a shame to know that a storytelling entity as singularly possessed and talented as XiL has a defined end, but the more you absorb their tale, the more it makes sense. For instance, the second track “Bruised Apple” breaks up the EP’s melancholic tone with a fun, uptempo/punk feel, which belies the darkness of its lyrics. It’s at this point that a third character narrowly emerges, as the music itself begins to stand out as its own unique layer, bringing even more dimension and depth to the story and the characters.
This philosophy culminates in “If I Should Live Forever, Then Know That I Am Dead Inside“, which ultimately accomplishes what XiL has set out to do, painting a vivid picture that caps off six sincerely tremendous and emotionally rich tracks. It closes off a brilliant narrative in which you’ll find yourself completely immersed and wholly invested.
Also, be sure to mark your calendars for March 30 — they’ll be playing the Carleton Art Collective End of Year show at Cafe Dekcuf (doors at 7pm, $7), and then again at Dekcuf just a few nights later on April 1, with Solhounds and Seven Days of Fire (7pm, $10).