Album: Motorists – Surrounded review

by Kieran Macadie

Driving is a huge part of the enduring rock and roll mythology – and Toronto-based trio, Motorists, bridge the gap between the romantic and the reality with their debut album, Surrounded – a twelve track record that focuses on the colourful possibilities of life as well as the misery of being boxed in by technology

Driving is so often romanticised – cruising down endless roads with friends and lovers soundtracked by rock and pop bliss. Yet, so often, these idealised images clash with the everyday drudgery of being a motorist: traffic jams, roadworks, and bad news on the radio.

Sonically, Motorists infuse gorgeous arpeggiated pop influences with grungier and gnarlier power-pop hooks. Think Johnny Marr’s jangling guitars with Nirvana’s rhythm section. But, surprisingly, it works extremely well with the record amplifying a unique and extremely distinct sound that will make Motorists instantly recognisable to listeners within seconds.  

It’s clear that the uniqueness of the record originates from the eclectic tastes of the trio. Craig Fahner, Matt Learoyd, and Jesse Locke’s paths have intertwined for a long time. They’ve played together as Motorists for three years, but have been in and out of various projects together since their teenage years. They also share an eclectic mix of influences from post- punk to power pop to krautrock. Fans of R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub, and Sloan will recognise Motorists’ economic, vocal-driven pop devotion. 

Standout tracks from the record include the opening title track, Surrounded – a disturbing bit of nostalgia – looking back at being in lockdown, and fed up with being cooped up inside the same four walls. While another standout, written during the pandemic, is Through To You, which opens with a gorgeous guitar intro – drawing back the curtain of solitude before letting in the light – and a yearning to be able to connect with humanity again – something we all realised we took for granted. 

Overall, Surrounded is Motorists opening up a window to the inner workings of their hearts in unprecedented and bizarre times. The heartfelt emotional lyrics, combined with their unique power-pop elements, make for a new kind of sonic bliss for the ongoing uncertainty of modern times.

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