The band picks up where it left off. With no preamble, the Heavy Blinkers’ first album since 2004 begins with a jaunty singalong chorus, with a 31-piece choir gathered around a piano: “I don’t know, will the glory train come?”
It’s about redemption, and about the things that ultimately matter the most in life. It’s called As Long as You Have Your Health, and its lyrics show up here and there on a delightful hour-long, lush-sixties pop song cycle that was long in the making but a nine-year blink in so many ways.
Health is the fantastic voyage and test of perseverance of Halifax’s Jason Michael MacIsaac, the leader of an orchestral pop ensemble that splintered after the release of 2004’s The Night and I Are Still So Young, a well-received post-Pet Sounds disc of pretty melodies and ambitious arrangement.
Since that record, MacIsaac picked up employment with Halifax’s Zuppa Theatre troupe and also found work composing music for television and film. In dribs and drabs, he created the meticulous bittersweet tones and classic-pop airiness of Health.
The music is magical, crystal clear and theatrical, gorgeously sung by Jenn Grant, Melanie Stone and others. All manner of horn and stringed instruments are employed. Is that a banjo? An accordion? A harp?
And is that Sondre Lerche, the gifted Norwegian singer-songwriter on It Sounds Better Than It Sounds, the gently epic mid-album cut? “The doctor says she can save your arm, the preacher says he can save your soul,” he sings. “But me, I’m trying to get to you, to save you from yourself and the bright lights that leave you in the dark.”
When You Go is a sad, dreamy ballad in a style fit for Doris Day, she of que-sera-sera blitheness. Another musing of unrequited love, Waiting For a Riverboat, is a retelling (according to MacIsaac) of the Orpheus myth.
The legend of Orpheus was also an inspiration for Reflektor, the new record by Arcade Fire. But where that record is a hefty, intense sprawl of an album, Health hits with softer touches and is elegantly focused. This is an inspired, unhurried work set for wishing and watching by the shore. An album a long time coming, its magic is owed in part to the sense that its arrival was never assured.
The week in music:
Top selling albums in Canada for the week ending Oct. 27: Predictably, Katy Perry’s Prism roared to the top of the Nielsen SoundScan chart. Following, in order, were James Blunt’s Moon Landing, Lorde’s Pure Heroine, Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt and Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz.
Top single: Lorde’s Royals tops the Billboard Hot 100 for the fifth consecutive week, staying ahead of Perry’s Roar and Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball, each of which previously enjoyed two-week stays atop the singles chart.
Also released this week: Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, Blue Rodeo’s In Our Nature, Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red, Nick Lowe’s Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family, Protest the Hero’s Volition, Robert Glasper’s Black Radio, Volume 2, The Flaming Lips’ Peace Sword (EP) and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s UZU.
Editor's note: Health is not the sophomore album by the Heavy Blinkers as stated in an earlier version of this article.