Thursday, March 15, 2012

Joel Plaskett Emergency: "Scrappy Happiness" (album review)

I guess Joel Plaskett just wanted a new challenge with his new record Scrappy Happiness.  As a project he undertook writing, recording, and releasing one song per week until the album was completed.  The entire thing was well documented on CBC Radio.

The album kicks off with the guitar freakout "Lightning Bolt".  As the song careens towards its conclusion it sounds almost as if Plaskett has found his inner Hendrix.

The hook-laden "Tough Love" is the most immediately catchy track in the collection.  An Atlantic wave-riding sensibility shines through on "Harbour Boys".

The ramshackle closer "North Star" is vintage Plaskett sound.  It's "I'm Yours" though, that is vintage Plaskett songwriting.  The stripped down track is an honest and clever relationship song.

As one can imagine, the results are a little uneven, particularly when you listen to the release front-to-back like a traditional album.

There are songs that simply aren't up to snuff however.  The mid-tempo "Slow Dance" is a listless number.  "Old Friends" features a lot of bombast, but the arrangement is so big and empty that it doesn't pack the intended punch.

The undeniable highlight (for me anyway) is the perky "You're Mine".  Any song that's based around name-dropping Hüsker Dü has got to be a winner.

Despite the ups and downs, Scrappy Happiness, is a surprisingly strong collection of songs, considering how it came into being.

Joel Plaskett plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto on May 18th and 19th.

Best tracks: "You're Mine", "Tough Love"

Track listing for Scrappy Happiness:
  • Lightning Bolt
  • Harbour Boys
  • You're Mine
  • Tough Love
  • Slwo Dance
  • Time Flies
  • Somewhere Else
  • Old Friends
  • I'm Yours
  • North Star

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