Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
There’s really nothing more frustrating as a listener than music that could be deemed as generic or boiler plate. It’s music that while not necessarily abhorrent, still remains taxing because of its inoffensiveness. It is the white bread, it is the skim milk, it is nothing to be ashamed of, it's just not boundary pushing or anything out of the ordinary. Of course, to reduce an artists entire work to something so entirely generic, but Kathleen Edwards new effort Voyageur isn’t to that level, but it’s pretty close.
No element of any track on Voyageur that really makes it a bad record so to speak. It features some big players in addition to her usual backing band and certainly the touches of Justin Vernon and S. Carey of Bon Iver are felt. And though its sonic palette isn’t too disimilar to the tones that Vernon mined last year on Bon Iver, and Carey mined the year before on All We Grow, it just comes across as a bit stale. This is music that your mom might listen to, cool music ostensibly, but the same sort of generic music that might soundtrack a sentimental montage at the end of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Moments of true emotional songwriting are plentiful on this release, as they were on the album that got Edwards nominated for a Polaris Prize. ‘House Full Of Empty Rooms’ in particular showcases the heart-wrenching sentimentality that Edwards often applies to her works, but even on this highlight it's hard not to wonder where you’ve heard all this before. There’s nothing on Voyageur, aside from the clever lyrics, to distinguish Edwards from the ever crowded field of MOR songwriters.
Though it might be easy to dismiss my criticisms as bias against the contemporary folk genre as a whole, that certainly isn’t the case. I’m not saying that the style as a whole is generic or boring, but that Edwards doesn’t do much to distinguish herself in an early year that will also see new releases from such outstanding folk mainstays as Bowerbirds, Andrew Bird, and First Aid Kit. Sure there’s playback value to be had in tracks like the rollicking ‘Mint’ or the more ethereal ‘Pink Champagne’, but once many of these other releases hit the airwaves it's hard to imagine that Voyageur will stand the test of a few months time, let alone an entire year. It’s pleasant, it’s familiar, it’s good wholesome songwriting, but on the whole it doesn’t do anything to maintain a consistent interest beyond a few spins of the record.
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