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Jay and Michelle of Paragon Cause. Photo supplied by Paragon Cause.

Talking Albums: Paragon Cause

By John McDonald on April 14, 2020

Balancing work and life isn’t always easy. In April 2020, when you’re a musician and a physician, it’s particularly difficult.

That’s the situation in which Jay Bonaparte finds himself. One-half of the band Paragon Cause, with Michelle Opthof, Jay is a physician in Ottawa.

“I’m working in ENT—head and neck surgery. ENT surgeons have the highest infection and death rate from COVID-19, which certainly adds to the stress. Right now, I’ve had to cancel all my clinics and surgery due to COVID. It’s stressful for everyone. I don’t want to sound like I’m some sort of hero, I’m not. I know other physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and others who are working crazy hours right now. They are who I worry about and the true heroes in this.”

The difficult work side is made more palatable by the music (life) side.

The duo, whose music has been described as indie-electronica and ethereal alternative, are releasing What We Started, their first full-length album, on April 17. Originally, they were to have an album release show at Cinqhole, but because of the current situation, they’ll be doing a Facebook Live performance on Saturday, April 18 at 8pm.

And if their days aren’t busy enough, there’s also a graphic novel.

“We created a graphic novel to accompany the new album. The Lost Cause is a fun project for us. We miss the days of a whole album with a story, so we created one. It will be available with our limited-edition vinyl package. We wrote and developed it, and Deniz Gulmez illustrated it in Turkey. It’s wonderful that music and art can bring people together.”

Jay and Michelle took time from their busy days to tell us about the music that they’re listening to during this isolation period.

Paragon Cause:

Music is important to both of us in Paragon Cause. Two albums we recommend listening to during isolation? This is one of the hardest questions ever, but we’ll be honest and actually put what we have been listening to.

The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust

This is hard, ’cause we love all the Raveonettes albums. We struggled between this, Observator and Chain Gang of Love (which has our fave Raveonettes song, “Remember”).

We have a special connection to The Raveonettes. They were one of our favourite bands and, oddly enough, Sune Rose heard our music and got in touch. Before we knew it, he was here in Ottawa recording in our basement studio. We have now recorded 25 songs together, including the Lies Between Us EP, the upcoming album, as well as nine songs for a 2021 album.

Lust Lust Lust is brilliant. Songs like the title track “Lust,” “Hallucinations” and “Dead Sound” have a dark energy to them that is oddly uplifting. Sune is a genius songwriter. The guitar on the album is beautiful. There is a lot of noise reminiscent of Jesus and Mary Chain with the ’50s surf vibe Sune is famous for. It’s an album to turn up and turn down the lights late in the evening. Close your eyes and get lost in it. Sune writes a lot about women’s rights, which also means a lot to us.

Digable Planets – Blowout Comb

One of the most underrated hip-hop bands ever!

A lot of people remember them from their hit, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” but Blowout Comb let their talent shine. They are so ahead of their time. Ladybug is one of the best rappers of all time, not just one of the best female rappers. The album is deep, dense and layered. It’s chill but intense. It makes you feel good, like you want to party, but also helps you chill. We’ve always loved the production on it. Some of the drum sounds and samples are gorgeous.

Check out the song “Jettin’” to start. And “Borough Check” features the late Guru from Gang Starr. If you want to take it a step further, go on YouTube and watch their live performance on KEXP.

This album was not a hit like their first album and fell through the cracks with a lot of music fans, but this album needs to be heard. In our opinion, it’s up there with some of the best like Illmatic, Low End Theory, Fear of a Black Planet and Main Source’s Breaking Atoms.

Because it was hard to choose two, we have a few honourable mentions:

The Everly Brothers – Greatest Hits
Among the most important and best early rock and roll stars, but also among the most influential rockers of any era.

Trentemoller – Observe
Dark new wave and dream pop with tempos dialled down and the guitars turned up, but played with restraint.

Bjork – Post
She always surpasses herself.

Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
Beach Boys melodies meet Velvet Underground feedback and beats, all cranked up to 10 and beyond, along with plenty of echo.

About Digable Planet’s Blowout Comb

Released in late 1994, the hip-hop trio’s second album did not have the radio-friendly style of their debut. Critics noted that it had a more ambitious, stripped-down sound, was less hook-orientated, used fewer samples and even included several solos. Spin declared it “beguiling, demanding, damn near revolutionary.” Allmusic wrote that it “excelled at pushing great grooves over sunny-day party jams, even when the crew was providing deft social commentary” and declared it “a timeless classic.”

About The Raveonettes’ Lust Lust Lust

This Danish duo’s music is characterized by close two-part vocal harmonies and hard-edged electric guitar overlaid with liberal doses of noise. Sune Rose Wagner, of the band, has said that Lust Lust Lust, their third studio album, is his favourite Raveonettes album. In its album review, Pitchfork stated “The few instruments all bleed together into an aggressively trebly jangle, with Wagner’s riffs and waves of distortion washing over you like a bad trip. Lust Lust Lust is best heard loud loud loud.” Spin called the album “a dirty-sweet testament to rock’n’roll’s enduring ability to reflect desire in all its forms.”

More from Paragon Cause:

Official website
Deniz Gulmmez (Illustrator)