Whether or not you like this disc is going to hinge upon how you feel about spoken word/slam poetry.
Shane Koyczan, who is based out of British Columbia, is an internationally known spoken word artist, poet and author. He is likely most famous for an animated anti-bullying video called To This Day, which has been viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube. That video spawned a customized version of the piece for the 2013 International TED Conference in Long Beach, California. Koyczan’s Stickboy, a novel in verse that chronicles the journey of a bullied child gripped by helpless rage, is not only the basis for a new art exhibit in Vancouver, but an opera composed by Neil Weisensel. So Koyczan is a busy guy that people want to work with, but he had time enough to produce a spoken word disc called Silence Is a Song I Know All the Words To, with musical contributions from Cayne McKenzie (We Are the City) and Hannah Epperson. Whether or not you like this disc is going to hinge upon how you feel about spoken word/slam poetry. Me? I like the style, but sometimes feel that slam is mostly style over substance. Happily, Koyczan sidesteps the issue on this release by having narratives and stories worthy of hearing.
What makes this disc also particularly worthwhile is the fact that Koyczan wraps his work around classical and piano music. It’s haunting and beautiful, and a great counterpart to the spoken word performance. There’s a sense of melancholy in the melodies, even if Koyczan sounds wise and hopeful at times. There is humour, though, so not everything is doom, gloom and moodiness. There’s a bit about getting a tin of sardines for school lunches from a guardian, when the narrator really wanted to get Fruit Roll-Ups and it's probably my favourite part of the album. “I would never be in danger of getting my lunch stolen,” muses Koyczan, “Why would you give me sardines for lunch?” Granted, there are some pieces of flotsam and jetsam: the nearly 30 second snippet “All the Tea” quickly goes nowhere and could have been left on the cutting room floor. Still, Silence Is a Song I Know All the Words To is a stirring, emotional listen, and anyone who has even a remote interest in poetry might be pleased with what Koyczan has done here.