Published Oct 17, 2018On her third full-length release, Belle Plaine finds amplitude by accessing a sense of community. Having grown up in a Saskatchewan town of only 45 people, the artist has been stretching toward a new abundance on each record. With Malice, Mercy, Grief & Wrath, the themes are on the tin, and the grandiosity comes with the inclusion of many instruments, voices and characters.
If this album were a house, it would loom large, stand Gothic and you would find its heart in a foyer that holds a grand piano. There is a timelessness in the saloon feel of "Is It Cheating" and the regality of "Radio Dreams." Here, you might stumble into a party, or you might find yourself reflecting by the hearth. Malice, Mercy, Grief & Wrath makes you feel as though there's a hearth in your future.
In her songwriting command, we catch hints at what drives Belle Plaine's creativity: big emotion and personal stories. She grapples with the loss of her parents on "Golden Ring," then a few songs later, tells a powerful story of how "Laila Sady Johnson Wasn't Beaten By No Train": "A machine can bear no malice, mercy, grief or wrath / Few can tell of how they crossed a locomotive's path," Plaine sings, of a familial prairie heroine, along a jaunty beat with a melody that sticks to you.
Striking an emotional balance is the standout tactic of the album. On "Is It Cheating," Plaine asks with a sense of humour, "Is it cheating if you don't get laid […] is it a crying shame my tears don't fall?" It's mercy among grief, and though the malice and wrath may be there in theme, this record is a balm of kinship against them. (Independent)