Born into a bilingual Montreal family, Nicola Ormiston was raised around female musicians and grew up with a strong sense of melody; an instinct which has served him incredibly well through his latest project, Hammer Down. It’s the Canadian musician’s debut LP under the name Ormiston, although he was previously known for his work as Beverlay, even being picked up by the legendary Kaytranada for a remix.
Let’s get a look at the Hammer Down album which was just released via Montreal label Lisbon Lux Records. The opening song is ‘Foreign Travels’, an instrumental introduction that sets the tone for the rest of the record. From there, we roll into ‘Rebel’, which was actually the first tune we heard from Ormiston and it’s funky, upbeat rhythm is one that hasn’t left our mind since. This also brings in one of the key themes of this album, that of love, heartbreak and searching for meaning in the space between the two.
Taking third place is ‘Time Fades’, which has been picked as the focus track for the record release and listening to this super fun, indie-pop gem, we totally understand why. It has big nostalgia feels of mid-00’s electronic pop with another delicious bass line, sultry melodies and an exciting build up towards the dancey chorus. It feels like a bit moment of relief following the subdued tension of ‘Rebel’, as though Ormiston has accepted that he can’t control the passage of time or life.
‘Adeline’ is up next and it’s one that’s a close second in our opinion for being the focus track. Heavy on the synth and romantic atmosphere, it’s like a slowed down disco track with some of the best lyrics on the whole album. You’ve always gotta love an “ooo-ooo” sing-a-long moment. Also at the mid-point, Ormiston delivers pure retro vibes on title-track ‘Hammer Down’. It’s an electrifying number that leans hard into 80’s club music; we’re imagining big hair and bright colours while listening to this tune. This song, more than any of the others, matches the aesthetic of Ormiston’s hyper-colour artwork.
Now we’re turning to our personal favourite on the record, ‘Step From The Limelight’, which is actually the other tracks that we’ve previously reviewed on Unrecorded. Once again, the 80’s influence come through the percussion, but with a more contemporary chillwave feel overall. It makes sense that Ormiston would bring this track into the 21st century as it’s one where the musician critcizes the modern-day desire to project our lives online, whether it’s the healthy choice for us or not.
The album’s penultimate track is ‘Green With Envy’, a relaxed listen that swoons with undertones of beach-rock and New Romantic melodies. The lofi prodcution accentuates the easygoing attitude of this track, which appears at odds with the central theme of envy. Creating points of contrast is something that Ormiston also did in ‘Rebel’ and we think this is because he wants to tap into the listener’s preconceptions, helping them to think a little deeper while also enjoying his relaxed-fit indie-pop.
Closing out the Hammer Down LP is ‘Better Days’, a sumptuous track that blends deep funk grooves and upbeat electro-pop. Essentially, this song is about hope, as Ormiston repeatedly sings, he’s “still looking for better days”, and perhaps this record release is a way of putting his past behind him. Whether that be the case or not, we’re certainly not ready to put this album behind us; it’s been a joy listening to Ormiston‘s debut album, whether it’s while we’re working from home or out for some socially distance drinks with friends.