Published Mar 11, 2016Steven Page's deluxe voice is easily one of the best in Canadian music.
If I'd said "the best," you'd argue, and that's not why we're here. The point is that while there's no mistaking (or duplicating) a Steven Page song, the singer/songwriter has never allowed his powerful tenor to do all the heavy lifting. His lyrics are as distinctive as his pop sound.
Heal Thyself Pt. 1: Instinct is the first instalment of a cathartic series of new songs and new beginnings. It's Page's fifth album since splitting with Barenaked Ladies, but in many ways, it feels like another first.
The 12 tracks here find Page in peak form, traversing the space between self-healing and artistic creation. Most welcome and perhaps most revealing is first single "Surprise, Surprise," in which Page sings: "One day you'll say, enough of this self-defeating stuff." The song, according to the artist's Facebook page, is about "breaking the cycle of depression and dread and finding a new way of moving forward with life."
The rest of the album documents various stages along the way. From the pithy opening track, "There's a Melody," about the creative process, to "Here's What It Takes," about trying to help others while also helping yourself, to "Hole in the Moonlight," about finding peace where you don't expect it, Page's songwriting is beautiful, infectious and touching.
Never one to shy away from political commentary, Page tackles what's wrong with the world but also the many reasons for carrying on, in a series of stunningly crafted songs that bring modern production to an earlier sound. Tracks like "I Can See My House From Here," "Linda Ronstadt In The 70s" and "Manchild" are suffused with '60s and '70s pop influences, while "The Work at Hand" is vintage '80s.
Produced by the musician's longtime friend and collaborator, Craig Northey, whose band the Odds play on a number of tracks here, the album was recorded in Vancouver and Toronto and also features Page's live band, the Original Six, comprised of Bryden, Jay and Jesse Baird, with Kevin Fox and Karen Graves on strings.
Steven Page's voice has always attached itself to others and moved them, and so will this record. Until part two comes out, you won't hear another album quite like it. (ole/Anthem Entertainment)