Monday, September 04, 2006

Album Review: Chantal Kreviazuk - Ghost Stories

From the first stroke of the violin bow to the last tap of her ivory keys, Chantal Kreviazuk's new album Ghost Stories is the first to really reflect what you get when you are granted the honor of witnessing her live in concert. Stripped down to basics, but at the same time full and emotionally enriched.

Where her last album, 2002's What If It All Means Something presented a slightly poppier, more mainstream (radio friendly as it were) sound, this album delves deeper into a more solemn, introspective realm. Written and produced entirely by Chantal and her husband, Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida, the two decided to record the entire album in their home studio, which in turn (it seems) allowed Chantal to play more freely with her vocals, emoting vulnerability, anger and love with a higher level of comfortability. The music as well has more of an internal feel. Gone are any traces of guitar riffs, the couple instead opted for lush string orchestration, and Chantal's own supreme piano skills.

The album starts off with the pleading mid-tempo Ghosts of You, another offering to her beloved cousin Brenda (who passed away during the recording of What If It All Means Something which produced the tribute track, Flying Home (Brenda's Song)). Then seemlessly segues into the first single, catchy comfort song All I Can Do, the "where ever you run, there you will be" infused Spoke In Tongues, and gorgeous love ballad (clearly about Raine) Mad About You (which is very musically reminiscent of the track Until We Die from her second studio release Color Moving And Still).

The albums two standout tracks are the haunting You Blame Yourself, and Asylum. The first of the two showcases her vocals at their most shattered but most urgent, sounding tuneless as if almost on the verge of tears. It is a song about overcoming a confusing unbearable situation. The latter tells the story of her Nanny, a war refugee from the Congo. Chantal states "While the memories of war and persecution will never leave her, the joy and safety she now has in her life and in our home is such a great comfort. But I know that she suffers in silence." The song starts off with a childlike taunt piano chord repetition (think sticks and stones), and swells to a fully orchestrated epic ballad. This song has me hoping she will do a theatre tour with a full orchestra to back her.

I'm not saying that the album doesn't contain any of the upbeat single material that we know and love her for (songs Wonderful, Waiting For The Sun, and Grow Up So Fast will sound great on radio), but be prepared for a simpler, more classical rock sound when you purchase this cd to add to your collection. Think Chantal meets Tori Amos' experimental nature then take a left at Raine Maida. If that helps at all.

**** out of 5

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