[Album Review] Bad Canada- Bad Canada
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Release Date: June 19, 2017
Label:  Independent

On the basis of unpredictability alone Noah Jordan deserves kudos, as throughout ‘Bad Canada’ he acts like a chameleon of creativity. Not only do the musical styles shift but Jordan seems to take on a different vocal persona for each track — sometimes angry, sometimes mellow, and quite often downright strange. Theatrical perhaps, but it’s a theatricalism brought on by creative eagerness.

And Jordan leaves absolutely no doubt as to the breadth of that creativity.  He punctuates his slate of songs (that can be generally categorized as weird folk) with instrumental splashes of pure experimentation. These works of ambience and drone are beautiful in and of themselves (and they make truly inspired use of field recordings), but they also serve as perfectly placed reminders of just how inventive this guy can be.

That isn’t to say that Jordan’s quirks are not in full evidence on each and every cut, it’s just that they are often quite subtle. “Oh My Love” sounds like a traditional ballad, and Jordan’s vocals are in subdued mode. And yet — just after crooning sweetly about keeping the troubles of the night away — he suddenly gets conversational (almost non-musical) as he confesses, “oh my love I want to see you when I wake / let me see your beautiful face”. Furthermore, Adrienne Walsh’s coy and angelic harmonizing voice lends an otherworldly air that is only embellished by the haunting de-tuned piano backing.

Of course, Jordan’s strangeness is more pronounced elsewhere. The album itself opens with an instrumental line so wonky that it makes you dizzy just listening to it. “Baby Don’t Cry” is achingly pretty, but it also has that Chad Vangaalen-like creepiness to it.  And “Cactus” plays out like mini Broadway musical. Then, on occasion, Jordan as Bad Canada just lets his freak flag fly. “SWOUP” is self-consciously silly, making it a thrill ride that swoops from raucous glam to Lennon-style psychedelia.

Echoes of vocalists ranging from Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed to Thom Yorke and Lee Hazlewood bounce around, and yet Bad Canada as the artist forms a distinct centre to it all. And beyond the vocals Jordan creates incredible spaces of sound, always perfectly tuned with the right amount of resonance and atmosphere. Sparse though these spaces may be, the arrangements are cleverly populated with tasty nuggets of intrigue, wonder, joy, and dark unease.

This is a masterwork of subtlety, executed by an artist unconstrained by anyone’s expectations. And with each track a brilliantly arranged package in its own right, ‘Bad Canada’ deserves recognition in the ranks of the best Canadian alternative albums of this year.