Originally published in the CJLO Magazine on September 23, 2016
One stand out at POP Montreal this year is the emerging young singer-songwriter named Helena Deland. Originally from Quebec City, Deland hit the Montreal scene as a solo act and supplied backing vocals for other locals such as Earthly Circuits and Mathieu Bérubé. She then released the song "Baby" on her Bandcamp back in June to stellar yet quiet reviews, followed by a four-track mini album entitled Drawing Room (arranged and recorded by Jesse Mac Cormack) just last month. It was an extremely good move to place her as the opener for the legendary John Cale, because that's sure introduce her talents to a wider audience beyond area code 514.
Helena possesses a distinctive voice that is alive with feeling and sweetly, sultrily inviting. She started her set alone on guitar, and was soon joined by supporting players Mathieu Bérubé (guitar), Francis Ledoux (drums), and Alexandre Larin (bass). Together they owned that little space where they stood stage left at The Rialto. The songs, especially "Aix", were overflowing with romance and whimsy, and it was also super fun when she started to scat and groove along with the guitar. Overall, the performance was captivating, rich, and personal, and Helena was endearing and obviously very happy to be there.
The set ended abruptly and left me wanting more. Helena Deland is most certainly one to watch and the highlight of this year's festival. Catch her final POP Montreal performance tomorrow, September 24th, 3 PM at Le Divan Orange.