Published Mar 01, 2017Jenn Grant has earned a rep as one of Canada's most highly regarded folk pop artists, and she more than lives up to it on her new LP, Paradise — even if it's not quite what listeners will have expected.
Much of her sixth album is subtly but thoroughly infused with synths, and characterized by R&B-style rhythms. But rather than disappoint Grant's folk contingent, Paradise should impress them — Grant's vast range is a thrill to behold. "Sorry Doesn't Know," for instance, grooves like a stripped-down Bee Gees song (think Feist's cover of "Inside and Out,") its strategic horn blasts adding to that slick vibe. Then there's "Hero," which would fit on the soundtrack to any of John Hughes' '80s Brat Pack flicks thanks to its neon bright synths and Grant's earnest lyrics and delivery. But before the song gets too Gen X-ish on you, Grant punctuates its chorus with lilting, ancient Gaelic-like "yeahs" that give the song an exhilarating time warp vibe.
In fact those quick eclectic changes within the songs are as impressive as Grant's broader foray into new genres throughout the LP. Prime example: the tit-for-tat minimalist rhythm at the opening of "Galaxies," which builds up and eventually bursts into a synth-y supernova. Her sultry purring in the opening moments of "In My Dreams," meanwhile, is later usurped by the arrival of thwacking drums that could rouse a hibernating bear. Then, in the song's last minute, there's an exhilarating string section crescendo that makes it feel like another tune entirely, before the proceedings return to their initial, ambient style.
Yet, for all the LP's adventurousness, it's "Lion With Me," a standout early track like nothing else on the rest of the LP, that enthrals the most. Here, Grant soothingly yet slyly sings about echoing voices, eyes like crystal, whistling winds and smoke signals rising from the hemlock, as pedal steel and knotty acoustic guitar strums flourish in the background. It's a timeless, rootsy acoustic ballad that would enthral any folk fan.
Indeed, Grant's versatility makes Paradise an alluring locale that listeners will eagerly, and frequently, revisit. (Outside)