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Disc of the Week: Jenn Grant's 'Honeymoon Punch' Add to ...

Honeymoon Punch Jenn Grant (Six Shooter Records)

Home has a strong gravitational pull in Jenn Grant’s music, and home for her is always near the wind and waves of Halifax and Prince Edward Island. But travel can throw new light on the place where you lay your head the most, and there’s a lot of travelling going on in Grant’s third album.

Occasionally she makes a literal foray to a strange place, as in All Year, which we discover in the second verse was written or at least sketched in a motel near the coast of New York State. At that moment, a punchy horn section elbows its way to the front of the band, and a whiff of mid-sixties Motown comes into the music, which suddenly feels like it could use some synchronized dance moves and big hairdos. The lyrics tell us she’s missing home and the man waiting there for her, but the music is urging: Go, girl, do this thing! And she does, tripping for much of the album through an exciting flux of styles that are at least a day trip away from her rootsy ground-zero.

All Year is exceptionally free-range, starting as it does with a folky acoustic opening, before drums and bass put a soft habanera kick in the beat – sly preparation for that horn invasion later on. In Baby’s Been Away, Grant’s dreamy melody about sweet separation floats over a glowing arpeggiated guitar line and some tight rim taps, till Grant reaches the line “walked up and hit a nerve” – at which point everything drops out, and a few hard smacks from the whole band delivers that shock in real time.

Getcha Good jumps with both feet into a vintage rockabilly atmosphere, with a touch of reverb in the vocals, guitars jangling and barked interjections from the horns. Grant’s beautiful voice and liquid singing style sometimes efface her inner rock grrl (as I recall telling her once over drinks), but here she has it both ways, as also in Parliament of Owls, a breezy rocker that features some of her best lyrics.

How I Met You and Walk Away bring in grainy synthesizers and a more basic style; the latter is essentially a Grant melodic fantasia stapled to a flat-footed harmonic grid. They’re not my favourites among her songs, but there’s an ear-worm lurking in each one, which could give these tracks ( How I Met You is the first single) some lethal mainstream potential.

Some of her stylistic modulations feel a few steps from ideal. She’s been playing Heart of Sticks in concert for years now, and it can be a very touching song, but the mid-sixties urban flavour of the recorded arrangement doesn’t quite gel with the home-cooked melodic line. Stars To Waves runs much of its course in an intimate setting with acoustic guitar, then blows up into an extended instrumental coda that almost sounds like a Broken Social Scene picnic. The song would be just fine without it. And I would recommend losing the brief, disconcerting splashes of Radiohead’s very distinctive guitar sound, behind a verse of Oh My Heart and in the spacey bridge of Getcha Good.

All in all, this is a very smart and assured album (produced by In-Flight Safety’s Daniel Ledwell, with a tight band of seasoned Grant cohorts) from a musician whose career has really blossomed since her Echoes disc of 2009. And did I mention that she’s a wonderful singer?

Jenn Grant plays the In the Dead of Winter Festival in Halifax on Jan. 29.

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