It’s time to do a bit of housekeeping on this Labour Day Weekend. Between 2009 and 2012, I was a volunteer reviewer for MonkeyBiz.ca. It was a fun, challenging experience writing much tighter assessments of movies and CDs for this Hamilton, Ontario-based website than for my own space on the web. (My natural tendency is to be long-winded here.)
But after my two final critiques were posted on there more than a year ago there have been no further requests for submissions (despite the editor declaring in her last email to me that she would let me know when new CDs had come in). It’s not certain why they stopped contacting me altogether but nonetheless, I’ve since moved on. So has the site, for that matter. These days, it’s been restructured as a blog and all of my previously posted offerings have now been removed. Truthfully, despite all of this, there are no ill feelings on my part whatsoever. I’m mostly happy with my brief stint there.
Back in April, I posted my MonkeyBiz review of Yukon Blonde’s breakthrough CD, Tiger Talk, as part of my ongoing Published Archives series. It first surfaced on April 9, 2012, the last time you would see my byline on that website. Now it’s time to share with you the other critique posted that same day. Here’s my take on Jordan Klassen’s Kindness EP:
JORDAN KLASSEN: KINDNESS EP: An album review
Posted on April 09 2012 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl
The recently departed One Tree Hill was a ray of hope for musicians, particularly those who couldn’t get their singles on the radio. The CW series found compelling uses for songs by well-established legends like Led Zeppelin and The Who as well as contemporary soft-rockers like Keane and Coldplay.
But in the end, OTH depended far more on the contributions of various lesser-known performers, some of whom achieved their first taste of success directly through the show.
One artist who might’ve benefitted greatly from the program’s exposure before it signed off after a nine-year run is Jordan Klassen, a marvellous folkie from Vancouver.
Any of the four songs from his latest EP, Kindness (the digital version features a fifth track not found on the CD), could’ve easily (and quietly) added to the show’s dramatic narratives.
For those completely disinterested in the noisy inclinations of hard rock, Kindness is a welcome alternative. In 15 minutes, Klassen leaves a strong impression.
Kindness opens with Go To Me, a tender, finely penned love song that stands out amongst an otherwise melancholic collection. As morning breaks for a happy couple, a perfectly content Klassen paints a sweet scene of inner and outer peace.
Although seemingly possessive (“And you breathe/and your breath/it is mine/And your heart/when it stops/when it starts/when it’s fast/it’s mine”), he’s really just calmly in sync with the woman lying beside him.
The song fades in with a ukulele before adding tambourine, drums, vibes and an old-fashioned organ. Later on, a background chorus, whistling and even a horn section get added to the mix. It could’ve been too much but thankfully, the song never feels overstuffed with all this instrumentation. None of the feeling is taken away.
Klassen’s vocals on Go To Me are necessarily restrained except for the belted-out chorus. It’s quite a lovely tune.
Also beautiful is the next track, I Am A Collector. Featuring some exquisite open-picked acoustic guitar work and a rather nice string arrangement, the contemplative bliss of the earlier track has suddenly faded away.
Klassen clings to whatever romantic memorabilia he has left of his ex while simultaneously worrying about an empty future (“I am a collector of the fear/that everything I’m biding for is not here/and losing all this sleep to think that nothing’s mine to keep/and there are none for me”) Who can’t relate to that heartbreaking verse?
Threads, track three, pointedly details a helpless man’s debilitating depression (“My mind is broke and I’m not a handyman”). This sad situation is not completely bleak, however. He does have a kind caregiver. (“You are not a fallen angel/you are not far away from my side and/ breathing soft in the morning/ blowing off all the scales of nighttime”)
Thanks to a very sympathetic arrangement led by a typically lively open-picked acoustic guitar and backed by those moving strings, Threads is far from a depressing experience. There is hope buried beneath this mental rubble.
Kindness concludes with Call And Answer which is not a Barenaked Ladies cover. Rather, it’s yet another pretty ballad with lots of energy and a bit more vocal volume.
Beginning with just an acoustic guitar and light piano touches, like Go To Me it successfully adds various other instruments and sounds as it goes along, never once killing the song’s momentum. Featuring the strongest lyrics of all the songs in this collection, its vivid depiction of a natural disaster appears to be a metaphor for another severed relationship.
While Klassen prepares for his next album, show him some Kindness by getting this CD.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 31, 2013