Album Review by Ferdy Belland
Cranbrook’s rising indie-pop diva Maddison Keiver explodes out into serious artistic respect with her new album Self Reflections — an instantly gripping and continually enjoyable collection of smartly-crafted songs (covering a wide soundscape of grooves and styles) that showcases not only the maturity of her introspective, revealing lyrics, but also how her nakedly autobiographical stories are delivered emotionally through her expressive voice. It’s been long years since a local East Kootenay musical talent has created such a lasting gem of a record, and hopefully Self Reflections will inspire further excellent albums to follow it.
The album kicks right off with “Mountain Air,” a roots-rocking aural love-letter to Maddisun’s beloved Kootenays…although she’s already tasted much of what the whole wide world can offer, she always knows where home is, and is unapologetic. “Sorry” is – you guessed it – a tale of love that’s past its best-before date, propelled through dynamic stop-and-starts within a winning Latino groove. The soulful ballad “Crystal Clear” hearkens back to old-school ‘70s Philadelphia soul, highlighting Maddisun’s glittering vibrato – that’s right: once again, the girl can sing! The mood switches over to bouncy-to-crunchy reggae with “In the End,” yet another song where Maddisun slams the door on some twit who doesn’t deserve her, and good riddance to bad rubbish. An echoing piano comes out to introduce “Wild Roses,” another plaintive ballad about falling in love while wandering alone through the wilderness. The themes of love won and love lost continue throughout the album, and with “Differences,” lush with synthesizer orchestration, the message of the song seesaws back and forth between the hurt (familiarity breeds contempt) to the heat (opposites attract).
Production values on Self Reflections are the painstaking high-caliber sort one usually finds in sprawling big-city recording facilities, but this album came to life in the Slocan Valley, of all places: Sincerity Sound Studios, the headquarters of backwoods-genius producer-engineer Barry Jones – Winlaw BC’s answer to Daniel Lanois, from all accounts (and the sonic evidence presented here on record). The impressive instrumentation found throughout the album is handled by Maddisun’s motivated and talented sidekicks: Kyle Albrecht (who, with his multi-instrumental prowess on guitar and bass and added production elements, is the Dave Stewart to Maddisun’s Annie Lennox) and Jordan Lysenko (laying down the understated yet tasty backbeats on drums and percussion), along with producer Jones (who did pretty much everything else). Not only is the playing top-notch across the board, adding slick style and class all the way front to back, but there’s a lot of rich sonic depth here – and the albums that inspire listeners to keep listening, over and over again, are the ones where the studio time was well spent. Which is the case with Self Reflections.
The second half of the album wastes no time in keeping the emotions rolling strong. The familiar hiss and crackle of the turntable’s needle in an LP’s run-in groove; the gentle wash of salt waves on a lonely shore; the minor-key melodies of a Fender Rhodes piano – and we’re into “Fiction,” a vulnerable Adelesque glimpse into self-esteem, or lack thereof. “3 Crows at the Funeral Home” whisks the listener into Sheryl Crow-style rock territory, tough yet tender. Things pick up with a mischievous bounce as “Days Off” shows how Maddisun is just as comfortable kicking her heels up in joy, too – one can’t be moping about dumb guys all the time, right? “Reflections” returns to the moody form established by much of what’s come before, with lyrics promising strength and growth after a long dark night of the soul. And the album concludes with “Contrast,” another piano-driven tale of the angst and trials of love borne by those carrying their tears from earnest adolescence into the unfolding butterfly of young adulthood.
Just Wow. This is what happens when you combine the best elements of Carole King, Janis Ian, Joan Armatrading, Adele Adkins, Sarah MacLachlan, Joni Mitchell – Maddison Keiver has a long and fruitful career ahead of her, and Self Reflections proves it — not just to the towering mountains and the endless forests that surround her Kootenay home, but to that whole wide world at large, beyond the mountains and far away.