Two years ago, PEI born/Halifax based singer Jenn Grant started our year with a record – Echoes – full of sadness, heartache and regret. An unintentional breakup record, the honest admissions showed fans that Grant was not only growing as a songwriter, she was undoubtedly writing to help heal the hurt. Beautiful, slow and heavy, Echoes found Grant leaving the wide eyed naivety that dominated Orchestra for the Moon behind. Considering how essential Jenn’s penchant for playfulness was, that the shift could have been jarring for fans, but leveraging the musical connection she shared with her band made for a completely natural progression.
Now it’s 2011, Grant’s heart is full and an unbridled happiness overflows into her songs. Whether it’s finding true love, or simply the desire to present a world that helps her fans, her band and her friends smile, Honeymoon Punch is a transformation roughly akin to Edmond Dantès (albeit, one not based on revenge). She’s moved on from her past, leaving behind the innocence and heartbreak and returned with a confidence and charm that only her closest friends could have predicted or recognize. Grant is no longer singing for the people in the bar with the heart torn to shreds. No, she and her band want the crowd to forget, move on and start living again.
After two years of singing Echoes, I was ready for a change. I love performing, whether it’s a sad song or a fast, fun or gritty one. but after so many sad songs about broken heartedness, my heart healed. It fell into love and happiness- so that’s what i wanted to and was able to give. I also felt that me and my audience were ready to kick up their heals a little after the last journey together.
I think the band was ready for a change too, and it was wonderful to be able to change and grow with the people who have supported me over the years… to give them new spaces to go to, too. I think they were excited about the new direction we wanted to take with the songs, but still felt free to be creative and come up with their own ideas. There seemed to be a nice balance alongside a healthy friction to the process in which we discovered the sound we were making.
From the first notes of “Oh My Heart”, it’s obvious that Grant and her band wanted to build efficient melodies that deliver maximum impact. Floating dreamscapes are replaced by snares as tight as Larry and Balki and introduce electro back beats to the equation. Sure, Grant still delivers some trademark, slowburning emotional numbers – the beautiful bended notes that start “All Year” (before the song breaks into a carefree skip) and “Paradise Mountain” could have easily appeared on any of her previous releases – but there’s no loneliness in these tales. The slow moments feel as intimate as shared touches between lovers and when the band hits full strides, you hear unfiltered moments of pure bliss that we so rarely get to experience (let alone relive through song). The arrangements are crisp, inclusive, modern and dance ready, and the fact producer Daniel Ledwell was familiar with the aural collages the talented players were trying to develop certainly helped the end result.
Danny influenced me in many ways, and I knew – after a few years of collecting vinyl in a home we made, and exploring the many patterns of what we like musically- that a large part of our lives revolve around creating music and deciding what we want to lend to this world. I felt like we were meant to make something special together. He was able to lead me in the direction I wanted to go – and it helps that we’re inspired by the same albums too. Phoenix, Laura Veirs, Camera Obscura, Sigor Ros, Coconut Records, Fleet Foxes, Beach House. They were the sountrack to our most recent history.
Admittedly, these names might not be the names you’d expect to influence Grant, but inspiration – as we see with every sounds-like band – is only a small piece of the pie. On Honeymoon Punch, opting to add more modern support to the melodies (the backing harmonies on the surprisingly muscular “Parliament of Owls” are a discreet tip of the cap to Robin Pecknold and his band and the textures that fill the frame on “Heart of Sticks” could easily appear on any of Stuart Murdoch’s latest records. “How I Met You” ventures close to the style trademarked by two of Canada’s most famous musical twins and even the beautiful closing track, “Stars to Waves” finds Grant exploring an almost Doiron-like vocal delivery before the band takes over) is a new twist, but it’s Grant’s shockingly honest pen and timeless vocals that escalate the arrangements and prove her talent. The punchy horns and soulful feel of “Getcha Good” and smile-inducing strings/percussion of the delightfully simple “Walk Away” would sound good with any vocalist at the helm, but it’s Grant that makes the songs explode out of your headphones.
Undoubtedly, Honeymoon Punch marks a change in Jenn; personally and musically. Will it alienate some of her fans pining for her beautiful voice to float over top of jazzy arrangements or revert to a country charmer like Dolly or Loretta? Probably, but at a time where everyone promises change and new beginnings, a record that pushes the singer, the band and listener to find that happiness and true love we all want, well, I’m not sure you could start your 2011 any better.
I could go on and on and try to find some clever way to tie in the sagely wisdom of Cyndi Lauper or carefree spirit of young Sarah Jessica Parker/Helen Hunt, but Grant sums up her transformation much better than I ever could;
I found myself since Echoes, sitting in my kitchen, writing and singing with more joyful expression. I didn’t over think it – I’ve just been following my heart – and sometimes I think of my audience, who I truly adore, and my band and I’ve been thinking of how I want everyone to feel good. There is a time for joy and a time to be sad, and it’s nice to have the opportunity to be able to build on a collection of songs that represent different times, in all of our lives.