Exceptional and sincere record from Canadian singer songwriter aimed at underdogs everywhere.
Mariel Buckley hails from Calgary which sits in a vast, often brown coloured plain, in southern Alberta in Canada. Her excellent third album is gritty, candid, heart felt and shot through with heartache. It’s also a colourful record, a far cry from the monochrome prairies, although the songs are rooted in places that are synonymous with North America. Produced by Marcus Paquin, who’s worked with The Weather Station, Arcade Fire and The National, he has given the album a contemporary sound with the use of heavy synth pads on some tracks, which are used sympathetically and add to rather than detract from the soaring pedal steel guitar and other instruments.
The album opens with ‘Neon Blue’ which is a song of heartbreak and lost love. From its first line, it paints an uncompromising picture of bars with “saw dust on the floor”, “cigarettes put out in plastic cups” and “pissing in parking lots” because the bathroom is out of service. However, ultimately it’s about reliving a past relationship and wanting to hold someone again. ‘Whatever Helps You’ is one of the more synth heavy, downbeat tracks featuring some great pedal steel guitar which weaves in and out of the song.
‘Going Nowhere’ is a song of frustration, boredom, “starting fires just to walk away”, trying to get a relationship back on the rails and not knowing what to do. ‘Driving Around’ came about as a result of a new love interest. Everything was closed, so Buckley had to be creative to impress them. She says, “It reminded me of being a queer kid in high school, having to go on dates just cruising around because we were usually hiding from someone. It was nice to reclaim that feeling of freedom and joy, now in my thirties; and not feeling the need to hide from anyone”.
‘Hate This Town’ starts with the reminiscences of the night before, with scoring cocaine outside the Circle K convenience store and pondering why it’s worth staying clean for Christmas. It’s a song of self-loathing, “What’s the point when everybody knows your business” ponders Buckley. ‘Love Ain’t Enough’ is another beautifully subdued track which reaches the conclusion that love can’t always fix everything.
‘Shooting At The Moon’ provides a snapshot of the life of a touring musician playing “motel bars and dingy lounges with dirty floors” and maintaining long-distance relationships. It sums up the fleeting highs that touring brings coupled with the realities of being on the road. The album finishes with ‘Let You Down’ which describes the end of a relationship. It’s a fitting way to conclude this record.
Buckley says, “I wrote this album for losers and underdogs. I want every outsider and lost soul to feel seen and safe with these songs. I wrote it for anyone who’s ready to make a change, and especially for those who aren’t”. It’s heart on your sleeve, uncompromising, honest stuff. An album of self-acceptance which is beautifully delivered.