Jann Arden

[Music] The Catch and Release #2

The Catch and Release showcases a choice sample of recently acquired music to my collection; some of these albums that I’ve “caught” will happily be part of my collection forever. But, there are albums that I acquired on a lark, that upon a listen or two have not resounded with me, which I have chosen to release back in the wild.
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What can I say…I started the Catch and Release series in September 2017… planned to make it an ongoing series…and then Big Shit happened. Our lives got into a dander. But! I am committed to this series and sharing new-to-me music with all of you! So, let’s ignore the fact it’s been months since I did one of these, m’kay?

The Catch

Forever committed to adding women artists into the music collection…

Jann Arden – A bunch!

As I shared with y’all a couple of weeks ago, I am a Jann fann! I had Canadian songstress, Jann Arden’s Living Under June back in the day (still do!). I have always found solace in her music. Just a couple of weeks ago I shockingly discovered I have most of her studio albums, several of them acquired while thrifting! I have had a chance to listen to them all and all are keepers. Jann, for the most part, has had a streak of great albums under her belt. She has just released her latest album last month called These Are the Days, which I reviewed recently (spoiler: it’s a goodie!).

Tara MacLean – Silence (1996)

I first heard Canadian songstress, Tara MacLean – where else? MuchMusic. She had a song that got a lot of airplay back in 1996 called Evidence. Its soft heartbeat drums and Tara’s soulful voice caught me at a time when Alanis was crooning about having one hand in her pocket…all respect to Alanis, but Tara’s music was a calm in a storm. I found her album, Silence, for a song at a Taleze, and it’s a calming change of pace.

Tracy Bonham – The Burdens of Being Upright (1996)

Knowing only one song of Bonham’s – Mother Mother – I found this one at my local thrift shop. I had always wanted to take a further look at her music. Her strong voice and her mix of hard rock was a welcoming surprise. Wow, this is a great album full of adrenaline. Each song is strong. This album’s sound takes me back to my uni days of smelly bars and moody grunge. Tracy sings her heart out. Now, I am interested in finding more from this artist.

The Release

The Cure – The Cure (2004)

I picked this one up at my local Mission thrift store on a lark. Now, I consider myself a fan of the Cure’s early stuff (1979 – 1993). Standing on a Beach lived in my Walkman for most of grade 9. I later enjoyed their Wish album, although this is where they turned more commercial (for example, Friday, I’m in Love was a constant on the radio…).  So when I found their 2004 album, The Cure, I was curious about where they were at musically, and I was willing to give the newer albums a shot…And honestly, I think it’s time Robert Smith hang up the rat’s nest. What I heard with this album was a band attempting to recapture the dark magic they had from the 80s, and it just didn’t work. It was painful, in fact. Smith was off-tune on most tracks (intentional, I’m sure) and tried to use his high-pitch woos and screams he’s known for from previous hits (see Love Cats). It just didn’t work for my ears. I’m passing…Now to find a copy of Disintegration

Cracker – Kerosene Hat (1993)

The very first song on this CD is Low – a song that I instantly recognized as the Canadian band Moist…except it wasn’t Moist; it’s Cracker! (Oops!) I can see how this album sold records based on that song alone. As the album continues down the tracks, I liked the bluesy bar rock (complete with tons of cowbell and tambourine)…but I couldn’t stand the lead singer’s crooning…If Cracker were to release this as an instrumental album, it would be on the keep pile!

Evanescence – Fallen (2003) and The Open Door (2006)

I was interested in Evanescence back with their hit Bring Me Back to Life was playing everywhere. Amy Lee’s beautiful voice juxtaposed with orchestral hard rock was different than the norm in ’03, and it was an attractive and curious sound, but I didn’t  pursue it…that is until I found Fallen and the Open Door for cheap. I picked them up to listen, and gave them thrice a listen…and… I don’t think I am a fan of Evanscence’s brand of orchestral Gothic rock. As lovely as Lee’s voice is, it seems she only has one type of singing: the start high and remain high. I don’t know, am I off base here?

Violent Femmes – S/T (1982)

I am probably gonna get flack for this one…Guys, I want to like Violent Femmes so much! I mean, in some way I feel a pressure to like them because of their 80s cred. I mean, this album cover is iconic! Alas, I just…don’t. Blister in the Sun is on the radio constantly. When I found their album for sale at the VV, I grabbed it, thinking, Hey, maybe they have other songs I like? Blister in the Sun was the first track, and an easy pass. Kiss Off is also recognizable…then so is Add It Up (Ethan Hawke from Reality Bites, anyone?) But, no, it honestly comes down to this: it’s Gordon Gano’s voice – it grates! I like the rawness of the guitar and fast drum rolls, but Gano’s nasally voice takes me right out of it. I just don’t see myself pull this off the shelf to listen. Anyone else feel this way about the Femmes?

More to come! Thanks for reading!

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[Music] Jann Arden: These Are the Days (2018)

Yep, I am a Jann fann!

Jann Arden has been in my wheelhouse since her hits, Wonderdrug and Insensitive played on the Canadian airwaves back in 1994. Her second album, Living Under June, was my first Arden purchase (Dr. Disc in London, ON, 1996 – I still have it!). I remember looking for her debut, Time For Mercy, but as a struggling student, I always found it way out of my price range. And, later when I could afford it, I just wasn’t into collecting. Living Under June was all I owned of Arden until recently. I happily sang along to her songs on the radio, even though I wasn’t buying her albums.

Jann Arden’s music is very contemporary and what one might consider easy-listening. She barely ever rocks out. But, if you listen, it’s very much on “the feels, everywhere the feels” spectrum. The clever lyrics hone in on sharp edges of emotion, love and relationships which may be dismissive to those who might construe her art as too sufferable or even boring. But, this gal (me) has listened to Jann through some dark periods. Jann doesn’t know Sarca, but her stuff seems to relate to me and my emotions at times that I need it.

But, I guess others aren’t feeling the same as of late? Since I announced that I started re-amassing a CD collection, I have noticed a lot of Jann Arden for sale at the thrift shops; so much Jann in fact, that as of this week, I can say I have close to a complete Jann Arden collection (I say “close” because I haven’t acquired her albums of cover tunes or her Christmas album…). It has been an enjoyable experience getting to know her latter stuff and seeing how it all fits in with her earlier music. With the exception of albums Love is the Only Soldier (2003) and Free (2009) that I had trouble connecting with, her other eight albums I own will forever be in my collection as they are particularly strong.

And what a coincidence that Jann Arden released her newest album, These Are the Days just last week! I was very curious to see how it holds up, so I dropped the $12.99 for a CD copy during a recent trip to Walmart. The CD itself is simple – cardboard jewelcase with plastic CD tray glued in. The liner notes contain song lyrics.

Like previous albums, These Are the Days peels back the curtain that is Jann’s life right now. Publicly, she has shared her struggles with anxiety, depression, weight and alcohol, a long-term relationship ending, being the primary caregiver to her mother with Alzheimer’s disease, and helping her brother in prison be free of his first degree murder rap. Big things happening! This album is a diary, laying bare how her life is right now, and how she encourages herself to keep going. The back of the CD package reads the message, “Be in the now, be in the moment”. On the CD itself it says, “Running forward, not looking back…” But, not before listening to this album!

Allow me to highlight some of the songs for you…

The first track, Everybody’s Pulling On Me pretty much puts herself out there – in a powerful way. A full band weighs in full brass, and here Jann forcefully – passionately – sings her heart out how life is taking its toll on her. This one is my favourite of the album. The messaging sounds desperate, but the music is uplifting and hopeful; I love songs like that. And Jann’s voice! Hooo! Stronger than ever!

Skipping forward, A Long Goodbye, the fourth song on the album, quietly and gently recounts Jann’s mother’s struggles with Alzheimer’s, and how essentially this diagnosis is a long goodbye as her mother forgets who Jann is. This one resonated with me, particularly since I experienced “the Long Goodbye” with my Granny (RIP), when she suffered from the disease. Again, the theme of feeling pulled or in this case, tangled, presents itself here:

“I’ve felt tangled up and hopeless, but it hasn’t killed me yet…It’s hard to be a mother to my mother…”

Jesus, all the feels!

The fifth song, Come Down the River With Me, is reminiscent of old gospel, and gives a giant hat tip to Adele. There are elements of Rolling in the Deep here, particularly the strong bass drumbeat and steel guitar. I really like it because I like Adele. But, I can’t help but think of how close to Rolling in Deep this song is…

With a lot going on in our lives, sometimes one needs to escape. The sixth song on the album, Franklin, embarks on a friends’ road trip to Franklin, Tennessee, where memories were made to try and escape broken hearts. I really liked the reminiscence in this one. The full band shows up here and is warmed up with some whisky slide guitar.

Number seven, Not Your Little Girl, I believe is Arden’s first single off the album, and it is for sure a singable and empowering anthem for girls. Starting as sort of a march, she swiftly emphasizes,

“I am an army (I don’t do what I’m told!), I am your king and queen. You cannot rearrange me.”

One More Mile to Go is a song that if I were to choose the “most contemporary radio hit” on this album, it would be this one. That’s not to say it was bad – not at all! I like the lyrics and it’s toe-tapping…but, listening to it, I chuckled to think if they used a Dobro, that it would be a New Country hit…Some good guitar on this one.

Overall, These Are the Days fits well in Jann Arden’s catalogue. It isn’t so much a departure from past efforts, but I have noticed a gentle shift to a stronger sound here, which is a welcome surprise. I highly recommend it!

3.5/5

These Are the Days – Jann Arden (2018)