If any album merits “early contender” status for Album of the Year, Kathleen Edwards’ latest Voyageur certainly qualifies. While any Edwards release warrants celebration, the Canadian songstress has outdone herself on her latest – a showpiece in a catalogue filled with gems.
Voyageur is an intelligent convergence of the many roads that she’s travelled to date. The dusty rock of Asking For Flowers is still a vibrant part of the proceedings, while enough Failer-style acoustics linger for long-time fans. However, Voyageur blends them all into a succinct, smart album that varies styles and guests while keeping Edwards as the star.
Edwards typically invites a veritable Who’s Who of contributors to each album and Voyageur is no different. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and S. Carey both appear, as does Norah Jones. Other guests include members of Megafaun, Francis and the Lights, Bahamas and Peter Wolf Crier. While that might seem like a crowded creative environment, all worries disappear once the music begins: Edwards is completely in control.
‘Empty Threat’ launches Voyageur with a sweet, summery refrain that belies its release date. Here, Edwards’ oft-floating vocal finds some new gravity. ‘Chameleon Comedian’ creates a perfect complement to the opener with a depth of its own in Edwards’ admission of hiding behind the songs that she writes. ‘A Soft Place To Land’ and ‘Pink Champagne’ hearken back to the singer’s delicate side, and the former track is among the album’s highlights.
Voyageur’s finest moment comes near the end, on the tune ‘Going to Hell’. Edwards recently gave some perspective on the song when she said “Sometimes when you choose badly, you’ve [made] poor decisions, you end up with songs like this”. Such substantive moments often yield the greatest artistic creations, and ‘Going to Hell’ is a perfect example. The confluence of the song’s emotional turn, the electric build and Edwards’ declaration (“See I’m going to hell/In a basket I made/Woven from the letters/and it spells your name”) come together in a stunning final arrangement.
Since 2003’s Failer, Edwards has been lauded as one of the better female songwriters of the last decade. However, Voyageur now firmly places her among the best songwriters of her generation. For album after album, she has entertained and explored; now she has mesmerised. Here’s to one of 2012’s first great entries.
Stream Voyageur in full, here.