Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Change The Sheets
Review of Kathleen Edwards’ Voyageur
Todd V WolfsonI feel that I should say up front that any reservations I have about Kathleen Edwards and her work are entirely my own issues. Since her 2002 debut Failer, I’ve enjoyed her honest, roots-rock fare but always felt like I expected more from her creatively even though across her first three albums, she’d never shown any signs that she had ambitions beyond being a good singer-songwriter. That said, the fact that she spent her downtime following 2008’s Asking For Flowers songwriting with John Roderick of The Long Winters and becoming romantically/artistically involved with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver made me think that perhaps her fourth record would represent that creative hard left that for whatever reason I kept expecting her to take.
So just to get it out of the way, Voyageur, out today, is not that game-changing record. It does, however, represent a significant enough shift in Edwards’ modus operandi to be noteworthy and is arguably her best effort to date. She’s shed much of the country-rock accouterments of her earlier records and the more narrative songwriting structures for an approach that’s more sonically expansive and more thematically raw, but has balanced out that weightiness with some of her catchiest pop compositions to date in “Change The Sheets” and “Sidecar”. It’s surprising that two of the most personal and pensive numbers on the record – “Pink Champagne” and “A Soft Place To Land” – would be the Roderick co-writes; I’d have expected different lessons to be learned from one of the smartest power-pop songwriters around, but again perhaps that’s teaching me to think I know what to expect. Similarly, looking for Vernon’s overt fingerprints on the record are futile – there’s no vocoder or falsetto in effect, even though he contributes backing vocals throughout. Okay, the outro guitar solo(s) on “Going To Hell” are kind of Bon Iver-ish.
Whether it came from her collaborators of from within, what’s most remarkable about Voyageur is that Edwards is able to step away from her comfort zone just enough to establish a new creative boundaries – and I suspect that these are her boundaries as her voice sounds on the edge of strained at points – without abandoning the touchpoints that her existing fanbase would need to stick around. Maybe I’d have preferred that she went a little bit further – again, I don’t know what I mean by that it’s just how I feel – but Voyageur is pretty good proof that she knows what she’s doing better than I do.
The National Post, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, The Ottawa Citizen and 660 News have interviews with Edwards while The Line Of Best Fit has a mini-documentary on the making of Voyageur, as well a stream of the entire album. She plays The Phoenix on February 11.
Bry Webb has finally announced a proper local show to mark the release of his excellent solo debut Provider; he’ll play two shows on Saturday, February 4 at the Music Gallery – one at 6PM, the other at 8:30PM. Tickets are $12 for each show and on sale now at Rotate and Soundscapes. Also check out his just-released video session for Southern Souls.
John K Samson’s solo debut Provincial comes out next Tuesday and Exclaim has the whole thing available to stream now. Samson plays an in-store at Soundscapes on the day of release – January 24 – at 7PM and will be back as part of Canadian Musicfest on March 22 at The Great Hall. And if that’s not enough, he’ll be doing a signing for his new book Lyrics and Poems 1997-2012 at TYPE Books on January 23 at 6:30PM.
Stream: John K Samson / Provincial
Stream: Woodpigeon / For Paolo
Stream: Leonard Cohen – “Going Home”
Local label Out Of This Spark have announced details of their fifth anniversary show, and as always it’s an impressive showcase of local talent. This year’s show happens February 25 at the label’s spiritual home of The Tranzac and will feature Forest City Lovers, Snowblink, Snailhouse and more.
Canadian Musicfest wasn’t able to follow through on their promise of more artist announcements yesterday, but the lineup for the Indie Awards did leak this weekend, and the lineup of artists performing is as random and arbitrary as the awards themselves… but solid, nonetheless. Performing at the Royal York Hotel on the evening of March 24 will be Passion Pit, Rich Aucoin, The Sheepdogs, Dan Mangan, Cœur de pirate, Treble Charger, and The Pack AD. And yes, that means that Treble Charger – or at least Greg Nori and Bill Priddle – have reunited… but you’re more likely to hear them play “American Psycho” than “10th Grade Love”. Unfortunately. Update: Treble Charger are also playing their own show on March 21 at The Phoenix.
MP3: Rich Aucoin – “It”
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”
MP3: The Pack A.D. – “Sirens”
Video: Passion Pit – “Sleepyhead”
Video: The Sheepdogs – “I Don’t Know”
Video: Coeur de Pirate – “Adieu”
Video: Treble Charger – “Red”