Underwhelming, which perhaps Millan would take as a compliment.
Chris Roberts 2009
The Stars/Broken Social Scene vocalist has described her second solo album as “the sound of someone climbing into bed”, and, realistically, there are times where it’s about as exciting as that. Someone retiring on their own, yawning, carrying a mug of Horlicks. This is not a record which leaps up and arrests you with its knockabout flair.
Millan means, of course, that’s it’s “night” music. If in daylight this album just sits there like a wet pudding, it makes more sense when played as you wrestle with nocturnal angst, as the ghosts in her voice gradually exert their frail but insistent presence.
Like her 2006 debut Honey From the Tombs, it’s delicate, intimate, folk-based. All that brouhaha of Broken Social Scene and wide-screen melodrama of Stars? Forget about it. It’s as if that’s her day job, and this is the “real” her. Some will find it dull as dishwater – it’s anything but dynamic – but those willing to hang in and soak up the sullen might find its melancholy heart shimmers in similar terrain to Bon Iver or Smog. And there’s a certain Canadian-ness to this strain of female voice: in places it echoes Feist or even Mary Margaret O’Hara, whether it wants to or not.
Her own songs are brittle: Bruised Ghosts, with its says-it-all title, is a bereft neo-waltz. Lost Compass is stark, keening. Her cover versions are more interesting. She takes Richard Hawley’s Run for Me and strips it down until it’s wraith-like. And her reading of (Stars tour-mates) Death Cab for Cutie’s I Will Follow You into the Dark wilfully removes any residual passion, moving it towards generic country. Such understatement must be intentional, though you wonder if she just fell in love with the title then didn’t know where to go with it. Day to Day, written by friend Jenny Whiteley, perks things up with a beefy, minimalist backbeat.
There is a support group of cameo-ing guest musicians, from Stars’ Evan Cranley to The Stills’ Liam O’Neil to Feist herself, but this is her whispered confessional, reticent and (at barely half an hour) brief. It’s underwhelming, which perhaps she’d take as a compliment.