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As an acclaimed avant-folk artist based in Toronto, Mappe Of (aka Tom Meikle) is well aware of his good fortune. He’s been free to pursue his passion in one of the most liberal, culturally diverse cities in the world, and he recognizes his life has been spared the daily struggles and indignities faced by society’s most vulnerable communities. But as he established on Mappe Of’s 2017 debut, A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone, Meikle is a songwriter striving for deep emotional connections with his listeners, and it’s impossible to do that in 2019 without confronting the fear and distress hanging in the air. But rather than go the typical folksinger route and make a record that explicitly addresses the state of the world, he’s responded with a modern progressive folk album situated in a universe of his own creation: The Isle of Ailynn.

 The Isle of Ailynn is conceptual by nature, but rather than overwhelm you with a front to-back narrative song cycle, its nine tracks more closely resemble levels in a videogame, each representing a distinct, discrete environment that exists within an overarching ecosystem. And for Meikle, songwriting was as much a visual as musical experience.

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