Shares new single/video, “Anything Can’t Happen”
Announces Debut Album: Anything Can’t Happen – May 7, 2021
Out via Telephone Explosion Records
Beloved Canadian songwriter, Dorothea Paas is today sharing her new single, “Anything Can’t Happen” alongside which she is announcing her long-awaited debut album, also titled Anything Can’t Happen and set for release via Telephone Explosion Records on May 7, 2021. For over a decade, Paas has played her unique, prismatic style of folk songcraft for audiences across North America, and lent her talents as a guitarist and vocalist to artists including Jennifer Castle, U.S. Girls, and Badge Époque Ensemble. The songs on this album have been a long time coming, transforming through a near-infinite number of forms whilst being performed at house shows and in sold-out venues.
Dorothea‘s vocal harmonies delicately lifts its audience as the words wrap around you. “Anything Can’t Happen” offers this chugging momentum that moves the sublime harmonies into new depths. The instrumentation grips you as the guitar tone emits this serious appeal layering notes upon notes. A raw release that captures such emotive notions and honest lyrics, this is an addictive composition you can’t get enough of from the first listen, you need to hit repeat and embrace Dorothea Paas. This is a beautiful ensemble rich with authenticity. The passion excudes within each turn of this release which in turn resonates a free feeling, an artist with no restrictions.
All of this makes Anything Can’t Happen feel far more mature and complex than a debut album. It’s a statement of purpose, the next step in a decade-long process of artistic growth and evolution, and a bridge between the DIY style of Paas’s previous cassette releases and a more refined studio sensibility. Recorded between Hamilton, ON, and Toronto, and mixed by Max Turnbull (Badge Époque Ensemble and U.S. Girls) and Steve Chahley, these songs bring a diverse range of musical influences into the conversation: inflected with the layered reverberations of Grouper, shot through with the piercing harmonies of the Roches, electrified with the searing energy of Sonic Youth. You can hear Neil Young in the grittiness of the title track’s guitar; Joni Mitchell’s Hejira in the album’s lyrics, Fairport Convention in Paas’s voice. The influence of Stevie Wonder – one of Paas’s greatest musical role models – is present too, in the album’s conceptual foundations.
This first album-titled single is a meditation on trust at three levels – in relationships, in the self, and existential trust in the future. In tandem with these ideas, the music, which draws on off-kilter percussion fused with Paas’s silvery vocal and guitar work, moves from rhythmic and confrontational, to drifting and introspective, and finally comes to an anthemic, euphoric conclusion.
The refrain “anything can happen at any time” is sung with confidence, but its meaning is ambiguous. Layered guitars, stacked harmonies, and heaven-bound synths feel big and bolstering, while also carrying a wide range of emotional possibilities including abandon, joy, fear, and grief.
“These uncertainties remain in tension,” explains Paas,” so that you can decide what you want the song to mean based on how you’re feeling. I hope that this song facilitates some cathartic surrender to the fact that there is so much we can’t control or resolve. There is not only fear but also possibly hope in the idea that we don’t know what is coming.”
When discussing the making of the accompanying video, shot in Niagara Falls, Dorothea says: “Ryan and I met several times, bouncing a few ideas back and forth, and then one day on a walk in Dufferin Grove (Toronto) I said, “my other idea is: Niagara Falls” and Ryan said: “I love it”, and it was settled; we went the next week.
“Ryan brought up the films of Wong Kar-wai as an inspiration and suggested a similar approach: pick a location and let the other details emerge from the setting. I love the model of improvisation within a structure in my music practice, and also like how this approach mirrors and multiplies the many possible interpretations of the song’s lyrics.
“A trip to Niagara Falls offers opportunities for self-exploration and self-obscurity. It feels very human to build something like Clifton Hills so as to exert some kind of control over the sublime. If the Falls render us insignificant or terrify us, we can remake them into a postcard or a keychain, and take them home. I can connect the video to my interpretation of the lyrics; maybe you will see it the same way as me, or maybe totally differently. I think that’s what is exciting about this open-ended mode of filming.“
Paas grew up in Toronto, in a religious household where she sang in choirs and played guitar with a church worship group. As a self-taught songwriter, she was as influenced by the pop music she loved hearing on the radio as she was by the choral music that surrounded her at home. At 18, when she moved to Kingston, ON for university, she found herself in the midst of a noise and punk-inflected scene that pushed her music in new directions. She found that her experimental, autodidactic approach to songwriting meshed surprisingly well with the ethos of the DIY community: “Make sounds you think are cool, don’t be confined by how it’s usually played, and try to approach everything in a new way.”
There was an aspect of Paas’s religious upbringing that she couldn’t shake. “I had this pre-existing feeling about the spirituality of music – the experience of music as worship, which is really hard to shake, even if you want to,” she says. “Initially I wanted to get away from that because I thought it was manipulative, the way that music worked in the church to control people’s emotions. But now I want to tap into that again because I think it’s really powerful. Why does music feel like this transcendental, spiritual thing, even when I’m not in church anymore?”
That emotional journey – from despair to transcendence – runs through the whole album. Taken together, Paas says, the songs on Anything Can’t Happen are “about the transmutation of love from a specific object to a broad object” – the way a specific experience can expand and ultimately change your life. This structure might also explain why the album had to go through so many different permutations before this version could come into being. “I write so slowly,” explains Paas. “It takes a long time of living, having conversations, crystallizing ideas, to come to a place where these songs exist. You need a lot of time to reflect on everything that’s happened. I’m not only looking back at the past with sadness but looking towards the future.”
Anything Can’t Happen
May 7, 2021
Out via Telephone Explosion Records
2. Anything Can’t Happen
4. Closer to Mine
6. Waves Rising
7. Perfect Love
8. Frozen Window
9. Running Under My Life