Published Oct 30, 2016It takes real courage to reinvent yourself stylistically mid-career, but that's exactly what Canadian singer/songwriter Annabelle Chvostek has done on this, her fifth solo album. A decade ago, she made a mark on the folk world via a comparatively short stint in the very popular Wailin' Jennys, and co-writing songs with Bruce Cockburn boosted her profile there. 2013's solo album, Rise, was overtly political, and it earned her both Juno and Canadian Folk Music awards nominations.
On Be the Media, her powerful and pure voice is accompanied by oft-fiery and abrasive guitar that'll likely leave the folk purists shaking their heads. The sound here is way more PJ Harvey than Gillian Welch, but Chvostek makes the transition convincingly. Her vocals on the opening title cut have a trace of a sneer, while the slower and moodier "Black Hole" and "You Can Come Now" (a tale of "drunk adults in droves") show her range. The electric guitar work is all hers, and she's primarily backed only by a drummer and bassist (though fiddle and saw make brief appearances).
Recording live off the floor in classic rock'n'roll fashion enhances the urgency and energy of the sound. There's a folksier feel to her version of Neil Young classic "Like a Hurricane," but this pales a little in comparison to the original tunes here. One of many highlights is "Carnal Delights," a dramatic song that moves from dark to breezy to dark in quite thrilling and erotic fashion. The album closes out with "Say It Right," featuring an undeniable homage to "Sweet Jane."
Be the Media reportedly received a European release a year ago, but its arrival here now is a welcome one. (Independent)