New Music: Only A Visitor’s ruminative singles build anticipation for upcoming art album, Decay

Group photo of Only a Visitor members surrounded by plants with flowers that are just about to bloom.
PHOTO: Yohei Shimomae

By: Petra Chase, Arts & Culture Editor

Only A Visitor is a Vancouver-based quintet with an idiosyncratic style that dips its toes in art pop, jazz, acapella, and avant-garde. They’re gearing up for the February 24 release of their first album under Mint Records, Decay. The album is full of peaceful melodies and harmonies that resonate as lasting meditative hums, drowning out negative thoughts throughout the day.

While akin to the conceptual songwriting of Mitski and ruminative outlook of Weyes Blood, Only A Visitor’s vocal composition casts them in a league of their own. After graduating from UBC with a bachelor’s degree in music, classically trained composer and pianist, Robyn Jacob, founded Only A Visitor in 2015. According to Stir, it started as “a project in which the voices were treated as one of the main instruments.”

This idea is mastered in Decay. From the simple humming that backs their acapella track, “Understanding Nothing,” to the call-and-response of their jazzy single, “What Does Waiting Mean,” vocal techniques are used not only to produce soothing rhythms, but to represent the nature of introspection. 

In addition to Jacob’s keyboard and vocals, the group consists of vocalists Emma Postl and Celina Kurz, drummer Kevin Romain, and bassist Jeff Gammon. Their collective talents come together cohesively. For instance, the jazzy instrumentals paired with theatrical songwriting in “All You’ve Held Since” produce a meandering, whimsical tone.

The album as a whole is a rhythmic meditation. Their single “I Am At Ease,” alternates between piano and vocals, gently building off each other to expand on singular optimistic thoughts like “everyday is a new day,” and “the future is a miracle.”

Fraud of Finery,” my personal favourite song, ponders “being close but yet so far, reaching over barriers of communication, and showing love and connection through the digital versus the tactile.” It was released with a music video October 2022, featuring interpretive dance by Justine Chambers. Chambers’ expressions perfectly match the melancholic mood of the song as she moves throughout her house and a forest. The lyrics, “It’s the season of darkness and midnight sleeps on the couch,” capture the song’s essence perfectly.

After listening to Decay, it’s no wonder CBC music named Only A Visitor “one of 10 Vancouver acts to watch.”

Stream Decay starting February 24 on Spotify and follow them on Instagram: @only.a.visitor.

Leave a Reply