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Funny how some albums work their way into your collection unintentionally. When I read that Joel Plaskett was releasing a solo album I made a mental note that it would be something I would like to hear, but that was all I intended to do. Joel Plaskett's band the Joel Plaskett Emergency whose most recent album I reviewed here, songs had a way of becoming less and less impressive over time. In the month to follow the purchase I raved about how awesome it was, and then a few months later it had become relatively average. So when I heard that Plaskett was going at all by himself it didn't seem likely he was going to reverse that trend. But then I started to hear some decent reviews for it, and then I was told it was an acoustic album, and then people were saying that the album had a maturity and a pleasantness that his band had lacked. My curiousity was perked, and when I saw it for cheap I rolled the dice.
On first listen I was disappointed, the album came across as relatively average. However, that is why I don't review albums after my first listen. With subsequent listens the album actually improves considerably. Whereas with the Joel Plaskett Emergency far too often Joel uses loud instrumentation or catchy riffs to perhaps try and cover up not overly impressive song writing or vocals, he does not have that as an option on the solo album. But he really figures it out. Joel Plaskett has a great voice, and it actually works really well with a paired back acoustic album. Dare I say it works far better than anything he did with his band ever did.
"LaDeDa" comes off a rather exhausting touring schedule behind the latest Joel Plaskett Emergency album. I was actually shocked when I heard it was coming out mostly due to being confused as to when he had time to record it. Perhaps playing the same songs night in and night out did the same thing to Joel Plaskett as hearing those songs a lot did for me. Maybe he realized they weren't all that good either, and maybe that realization made him make an acoustic solo album like this that really is quite a departure. This still isn't an amazing album, but it is a remarkably consistent 12 track offering with a handful of standout tracks. And it is a undoubtable step in the right direction. Plaskett is no spring chicken in the music industry, but this album has given me reason to believe that the best might be yet to come for him.
I am struggling over what to claim as my favourite song, but it is either "Happen Now", or "Love This Town". "Happen Now" is the second track and the acoustic guitar has a hint of a country twang which gives it a different feel than some of the other songs. I think if anything on this album has the potential to be a moderate hit single in Canada it would be this. The chorus is one that you just can't help but wanting to sing along with. Combine that chorus, and the twang of that acoustic guitar and the simplistic lyrics of the song and you have something. I think that these songs, and this one in particular have some of that Canadian charm that worked so well for Sam Roberts on his debut E.P. Songs like this one makes me sad that Plaskett has been hiding his voice behind the harder sound of his band all these years.
Odds are Joel Plaskett won't spend the rest of his career doing acoustic work, and I wouldn't suggest that myself either. However, the lesson to be learnt here is that you can argue successfully pulling off an acoustic album is the biggest test on how decent your singing voice is. Joel Plaskett comes through that test very decently, and in the future he should remember that when being tempted to drown it out with loud guitar riffs. "LaDeDa" focusses on substance over style and I applaud Plaskett for it. Sure there is still room for improvement, but there is less room than before. Not a bad song on the album, but unfortunately only three or four great ones. A good album, and you won't regret buying/listening to it if you ask me.
Songs you should download: "Happen Now", "Television Set", "Nina & Albert", "Lying on a Beach", "Love This Town"
SCORE: 7.8 (Needed a few more standout songs to move into a 8 territory, but as I said I label this album as a grower and it might get even better to me over time.)