A country album that works as bright, enjoyable pop music.
In a year where the combination of pop, rock, country, and airy female vocals seems to have become the hot new trend, Angela Desveaux's new album falls right in line. It may seem strange, and a bit facetious, for someone born in south Montreal to "do" country, yet she spent her early years in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. And if there's any place that understands the solace and loneliness that country can bring out, it's the Maritimes of Canada. Without even hearing the album, you understand that this album isn't by some fly-by-night faker, but someone who can truly relate to the soul of country music.
Yet even with the bluegrass and country elements that pervade this album, Wandering Eyes somehow turns into a wonderful little pop album. The feeling of desolation perfected by artists such as Lucinda Williams, who Desveaux cites as an influence, comes along with, and is often superseded by, an upbeat pop feel. This isn't whiskey-stained, tear-soaked sadness; this is more bouncing joy than anything else. As Desveaux tells it, the work isn't very acoustic, as she worked with a full-fledged rock band in the album's creation. The result is a playful mix of genres, and an entertaining and enjoyable collection of songs.
For the most part, the songs that work the best are the upbeat ones. They bring out the effervescence of Desveaux's voice. The opener, "Heartbeat", with its jangling guitars, is a nice little song about longing. The title track, "Wandering Eyes", is another pop-inflected number propelled by strong drumming. There is also the resplendent "All the Talk", with a snaking rock guitar sound and a shimmering chorus.
The only moments that seem to meander are the instances when the album slows down, when the shining pop makes way for slow, acoustic heartbreak. This includes the fourth track, the five and half minute "If Only", as well as the next track "Bury Me Deeper", which slow down the momentum created by the first three tracks. However, the following track "Sick of Fools", picks the pace back up and the album finishes on a strong note.
This album, in some ways, has a lot in common with another Canadian songstress who released a country-inflected album this year, Amy Millan. Like Millan's work, Desveaux's album is nominally country, yet the pop elements are noticeably present, and noticeably the best parts of the album. Desveaux is a confessed Gram Parsons fan, and her work, a blend of country with other genres, lives up to Parsons' standard of great work.