More people know of Alanis Morrissette and Avril Lavigne than Neko Case and Kathleen Edwards. If you’re a little out of step with me, here’s the thing: they’re all female vocalists (and, presumably songwriters) from Canada, eh? Obviously, the similarities end there. If you know your ass from a hole in the ground (and if you’re reading Bollocks!, I have to assume you do; unless you just come here for the abuse), you know that Neko Case and Kathleen Edwards are far superior songwriters, musicians, and vocalists than those other two Canucks. But again… the two inferior ones are better known. You and I both know that people who argue that a musician’s popularity (record sales, income levels, etc.) in any way speaks to their musical ability are people who lead lives utterly devoid of substance, adventure and – barring the occasional happy accident- taste. Their favorite band is the Beatles, their favorite playwright is Shakespeare, etc. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with digging the Beatles and Shakespeare, but you know what I mean – they’re defaults for a lot of people. These are the kind of people who will tell you Citizen Kane is the best movie ever, even if they’ve never seen it.
Where was I?
Oh yeah. Kathleen Edwards has a new album. It’s called Asking for Flowers. If she’s asking for flowers, you should probably send her some. Go on, I’ll wait. You’re already reading this shitty blog while you should be working, so open a new tab (Ctrl-T, Dad), pop over to whatever flower delivery site you like best, and send some flowers to:
Kathleen Edwards, Care of Canada.
Include a note, will ya? “Dear Kathleen: Love your voice, love your songs. Here’s those flowers you asked for.”
Kathleen Edwards has one helluva voice, doesn’t she? Do yourselves a favor, aspiring female vocalists – don’t draw your inspiration from those breathless, synthesized teenagers. Listen to Kathleen Edwards telling you not to be like that on “Buffalo,” or -better yet – listen to her talk about “cold ambivalence” on “O Canada”. Follow that with heavy doses of the aforementioned Neko Case, Emma Pollock, and Regina Spektor.
Point is, Asking For Flowers is probably Ms. Edwards’ finest album yet. I didn’t think so the first time I heard it, but it has grown on me slow and sure, just like Failer did way back in the day. Back to Me was a little to FM-friendly for me (although “The Independent Thief” is a dope song) and it made me long for the lonesome, tired Failer. If you took the mood of Failer and dated it for a while, dumped it at a truckstop (sticking it with the bill, of course) with nothing but a name and a newspaper full of bad news and bullshit, you might end up with something like Asking For Flowers. Edwards taught herself to play the piano for this album and she shows off her new chops by opening the album with “Buffalo.” “Buffalo” lets you know what you’re in for; it’s a slow-burning, mostly depressing ride from Canada across the border (but she can’t go back, according to the customs guy in the song).
Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of piss-and-vinegar stuff on Asking for Flowers. “The Cheapest Key,” showcases Edwards’ ability to go from flirting to flipping you off in less than a second. “The Cheapest Key,” apart from being a music theory in-joke, is one of the better uptempo tunes on the album. “I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory,” is really the only misstep on Asking for Flowers; it’s a little too gimmicky for Edwards and, while I get that there’s precious little room to laugh on this record, “I Make the Dough” just doesn’t fit. I want to curl up with the rest of this album and bawl. “I Make the Dough” only gets in the way of that.
Not to beat a dead horse here, but “I Make the Dough,” really ends up looking bad (it’s not awful, it’s just a mood killer in the middle of the album) sandwiched between the stellar “Alicia Ross” (about a real murder case in Canada; a young woman was abducted from her back porch by a neighbor and killed. Apparently, the guy who did it claimed that she called him “a loser,” which is what made him snap… proving that he’s a fucking loser) and “Oil Man’s War,” about a dude going AWOL to Ms. Edwards’ homeland (good luck with the customs guy, pal). Kathleen Edwards has plopped herself at her most gimmicky (“I Make the Dough”) in between two examples of her at her best.
I didn’t start this here music blog (I love it when newspapers refer to “web blogs,” don’t you? Really shows you why print is dead) to whine about my personal shit; I started it to swear about my favorite (and least favorite) bands. But, as the six or so people (on average) who read Bollocks! know, my sister died earlier this summer. There are three albums that have helped me deal with this fact (I almost wrote that I “lost” my sister earlier this summer. She would, no doubt, appreciate me pointing out that I haven’t “lost” her; I know right where she is, it’s just not here.): the first is The Airing of Grievances by Titus Andronicus, the second is Stay Positive by The Hold Steady, and the third is Asking for Flowers. The Titus Andronicus record is for when I’m angry (and I think I’m within my rights to be mad that my sister only lived 31 years; there are far too many tossers in the world who will live twice that long on average; but I digress), the Hold Steady one is for when I’m happy and at peace (or trying to be) and Asking for Flowers, especially “Scared at Night” (fucking hell – she talks about watching her brother die in that song. Fucks me right up, but in a weird, cathartic way), is for when I just need to be tired and sad about it. I realize that may be a slightly emo note to end on, but don’t worry; I’m not gonna start cutting myself or anything. Just saying – sometimes, you need to recognize that you feel like shit and Asking for Flowers helps with that. Thanks a lot, Kathleen Edwards.