Devon Sproule: I Love You, Go Easy

Photo: Aaron Farrington

On the best songs here, Sproule comes off as a charming friend who fills the listener in on what’s been going on since you last talked. She gossips and jokes, and keeps her serious side open.

Devon Sproule
Label: Tin Angel
US Release Date: 2012-01-17
UK Release Date: 2011-05-23

Devon Sproule’s sixth album, I Love You, Go Easy, shows the singer-songwriter taking a turn towards simplicity. These songs have sparse arrangements and mostly focus Sproule’s voice. She sings in a plain and conversational style. She rarely goes for the high or low notes to make a point. Instead, Sproule’s concerns lie with her phrasing, which fits her often poetic wordplay. She’s more interested in telling a story or turning a phrase then with melody and rhythm. This makes Sproule seem like she’s being honest. But … .

On the last track, hidden after the final one listed on the album credits, Sproule confesses that she has sung, “clichés, truths and lies.” Her description is accurate, despite the posing of her songs’ protagonists. This is not a matter of quality. There have been both great and terrible songs made up of clichés, truths and lies. The problem is that Sproule implies there is a qualitative difference between the three, and she struggles to tell the truth. However, she is best when letting her imagination run wild.

Consider the song about living for the future versus living for the present, “Monk/Monkey“. Sproule compares the two sides of her personality to symbols at the opposite ends of the behavioural spectrum to make her point. She lets the narrative wind its way to the silly. This works to take the earnestness of the lyrics into something more complex and strange. “Who can you love with the heart of a chicken / Ask your monk and go ask your monkey / He knows where your balls are hidden.” It’s funny, made more so by Sproule’s deadpan lack of inflection. The sincerity of her voice works as a contrast and deepens the topic, which is somewhat clichéd.

But when she seemingly gives the straight details of her life, on tracks like on “The Warning Bell” and “Now’s the Time”, Sproule is much less interesting. While it is true that the personal is political, the details of her family’s decision of what town to live in and what job inherently reflect larger values, so what? There is little poetic or romantic in these tales. There’s a difference between being confessional and being self-centered that relate to one’s perception of the audience. Sproule presumes we care, but it’s not always clear why we should.

For example, think of Joni Mitchell’s “The Last Time I Saw Richard” (Mitchell’s work is an obvious influence on this album). Mitchell gives us details: “Richard got married to a figure skater / And he bought a dishwasher and a coffee percolator / And he drinks at home with the TV set on.” However, the specifics stand for something. The settling for domesticity is poetically revealed. Sproule’s imagery too often just seems factually accurate and does not mean anything outside of the song. She sings, “You come home in the blue afternoon / Pick up the same tea and barbecue.” Mitchell and Sproule share a similar concern about settling for less in life, but Sproule’s depiction don’t invite a deeper analysis. It would not be any different if the person in the song came home in the rain and picked up burgers at Wendy’s.

Sproule’s idiosyncrasies add to her charm – to a point. On the best songs here, Sproule comes off as a charming friend who fills the listener in on what’s been going on since you last talked. She gossips and jokes, and keeps her serious side open even as she deflects getting too heavy about things. It’s nice to have friends, but that does not mean you should allow them to burden you unduly. Sproule knows this. As the title song says, “I Love You, Go Easy”. When Sproule keeps things laid back, she’s fun to hear. You can even fall in love for the length of the song.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.