Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship: Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship

Photo: Liam Maloney

While Desveaux moves more firmly into rock territories with her very strong second album, the subject matter -- strong women in unhealthy relationships -- would resonate with female country legends, as well as people who can’t sing a note.

Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship

Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship

Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2008-09-09
UK Release Date: 2008-09-08

Angela Desveaux, the Montrealean songwriter with roots in rural Cape Breton, has a rich country-tinged voice and a fondness for traditional instruments. Still, her second album, Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship, is mostly a rock record, with strident beats and clean, simple guitar solos. Her band -- guitarist Mike Feuerstack of the Wooden Stars, bassist Eric Digras, and drummer Gilles Castilloux -- is much the same as on debut Wandering Eyes, but they've developed a knack for emphatic beats and clear, well-structured instrumental breaks. Feuerstack has some particularly good, well-thought-out guitar solos, on the rock side in “Other Side” and “Hide from You”, and in a more country-blues idiom on “Shape You”. Sure, there are occasional twangs of pedal steel, now-and-then delicate, vibrato vocal flourishes, and a couple of songs in country waltz-time to show her traditional roots. But for the most part she sounds strong and sure and indie-rocking, a latter-day Juliana Hatfield or Kristin Hersh.

Maybe the main element that links her to country legends from Patsy Cline to Lucinda Williams is her subject matter. Desveaux’s main preoccupation here seems to be strong women caught in self-destructive relationships. It’s a reminder that, even now, even for girls who write their own songs and lead their own bands and have the last word on every aspect of their careers, love can still be a problem, the one thing that undoes all the independence. The men in these songs are always falling short, always leading their women astray, and the women, whether Desveaux herself or a fictional character, are always putting up with them. The gap between the strong, self-assured singer that Desveaux demonstrably is, and the lonely, desperate-for-love women that populate her songs, is one of the most interesting things about this very interesting album.

Consider, for instance, the opener “Other Side”, adorned with long mesmeric guitar tones and cool harmonies, a country shading of pedal steel. Desveaux's voice starts at a low murmur, as she describes what is clearly a flawed relationship, only blossoming in volume and clarity as she sings the chorus: “And it’s taking all my energy / When you ask me to do something wrong / It’s not me”. Clearly it’s a woman of integrity talking, someone who, for reasons of her own, has fallen into a compromised relationship. The same thing arises, later on, in the harder rocking “Hide from You” in the lines, “I can’t say no to you / So what am I supposed to do / When you ask me a second time / I think that I will try to hide from you”. What is he asking her for? Why does she object? You don’t know, but you sense the collision of high moral principles and the need for love. No wonder that in the lovely, slow-moving country torch song “Joining Another” she observes that, “Something about joining another / Makes you feel sad”.

And yet, despite the vacillations of Desveaux’s characters, there’s an undeniable strength and joy in the music. The title track is as sad as they come lyrically, describing a young wife waiting for a sailor whose ship has gone down. The song is dedicated to Desveaux’s grandmother, who lost her husband this way, and it contains bits of a traditional song about the Titanic. Yet it is lushly orchestrated, not just with rock band instruments, but trumpets and perhaps a bassoon, and it has a triumphant waltz-time swagger to it that cuts through the pathos. Similarly, the jittery, jangling “Red Alert” contains the album’s most despairing couplet (“In the end, who you wait for / In the end, who you work for / Can’t provide for you”), and yet its percolating Pixies-esque bassline, its jumpy tom-clattering drums make the song rock.

Desveaux has a wonderfully warm, strong voice, as effective in a confidential murmur as in her loudest rocker-girl wail. She can sing like a 1990s indie-rock diva (“Red Alert”, “Sure Enough”), or like a country girl full of flowery vibrato (“The Way You Stay”), and, moreover, she can make the transition seamless. Still, it’s her combination of strength and vulnerability, independence and longing for connection that makes Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship so remarkable. Maybe women today still can’t have it all, and maybe they never will… but it’s a worthy struggle, explored with subtlety and passion in this wonderful album.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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

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