Chantal Kreviazuk: Ghost Stories

Former Avril Lavigne songwriting buddy and one of Kelly Clarkson's favorite collaborators releases her fourth solo disc, proving that she saves some of the best stuff for herself -- filler included.

Chantal Kreviazuk

Ghost Stories

Label: Nettwerk
US Release Date: 2007-05-01
UK Release Date: Available as import

Four albums into her career, it’s easy to forget that Chantal Kreviazuk is a solo artist.

This may seem like an odd statement, but Kreviazuk has been lingering in the pop world from behind the scenes, writing and producing dozens of hits for other artists (Kelly Clarkson’s "Walk Away"? Avril Lavigne’s "He Wasn’t"? Gwen Stefani’s "Rich Girl"? Yeah -- all involved with Chantal). She’s a classically trained pianist, but was given a record deal as a vocalist, and somewhere along the way wound up marrying Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida. Her albums were critically praised but never racked up huge sales, despite some wonderful songs in prominent places (Trivia: her cover of John Denver’s "Leaving On a Jet Plane" was the second single from the Armageddon soundtrack, after that Aerosmith song you may have heard of). Her songwriting career shows no signs of dwindling (she’s contributed to the forthcoming albums from Mandy Moore and Kelly Clarkson), but with Ghost Stories she sounds ready to break out of the pack, to finally establish herself as full time solo artist.

And here, she comes very close.

If one were to make a populist comparison of her sound, then Chantal Kreviazuk is Vanessa Carlton all grown up, filled with harmony and maturity instead of high school poetry (and the change is welcome). Maida serves as producer (again), and smartly keeps Ghost Stories as guitar-free as possible, keeping Chantal’s piano front and center (with string quartets coming in from every which-way). Chantal’s voice is still a large selling point, as it’s never Broadway-styled belting that goes on, it’s simply a confident, rich coo that sings with conviction, sometimes rubbing next to another populist comparison: Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan. Truth be told, the "spot the influence" game could go on all day, but few voices could actually sell a line like "You can never erase that you were not popular in school" (from "Spoke in Tongues") and have you totally believe it. Even near the disc’s close, she holds out notes on "Asylum" like she’s gunning for VH1 Diva status, with Maida’s epic-song-in-the-making production making it sound like the most important song in the world (which it’s not). Much like British jazz artist Jamie Cullum before her, Chantal never wins you over with piano versatility or vocal prowess -- her personality and conviction say more than any show-off maneuvers ever could.

The problem, however, is that these talents aren’t married to particularly strong songs. Opener "Ghosts of You" is full-on melodrama, complete with the mournful string section opening things up like some tear-jerking Broadway ballad. The song never builds to a powerful hook, and Kreviazuk’s lyrical sentiments are as clichéd as you’d expect from a major Adult Contemporary release. It’s not that it’s a bad song, it’s just not an interesting one. Other songs fall into this pattern, somewhat due to Maida’s overdub-happy production, leaving a slight echo on every single instrument (which gives the album a nice richness but makes each individual track nearly indistinguishable that which preceeded it). The production is smoother than a velvet sheet, but it’s because of this that great moments for hooks (like Kreviazuk’s beautiful wail "all I can do is love you to pieces" from "All I Can Do") are underplayed instead of overplayed. Bombast can only go so far.

With that in mind, it should be noted that when the songs work, they are utterly stunning. "Waiting for the Sun" is practically flawless. It’s a ballad of restrained optimism, using generic terms to paint a picture of being nearly happy but never really getting there:

I’m tired of living in the shadows

But I’m not giving up on me

It’s a sad sad world

But I’m still waiting

I can’t worry about tomorrow

Or what its new day is gonna bring

‘cos every dark cloud

Has a silver lining

I’m waiting for the sun to shine

I’ll wait until the day I die

It’s an incredible centerpiece that sets the bar for the rest of the album. Single "Wonderful" comes very close to matching it, built around a simple piano progression where the narrator goes back and forth about whether to call the one she loves, using lots of prepositions to draw a character that’s projecting her confidence outward as if she’ll eventually convince herself she can stand proud by saying it enough. It may not have the same impact as "Waiting for the Sun", but its another yearning number that will hopefully find its way into Zach Braff’s iPod.

The stateside release of this album adds on two excellent tracks (the very Vanessa Carlton-styled "Time" and the light dance-rock of "I Do Believe"), but they’re only cherries on top of the fine sundae that is Ghost Stories. Like her previous albums, she has some absolutely extraordinary songs that are coupled with some merely-passable numbers, making for an uneven, yet interesting, mix of tunes. Her greatest hits album will be a thing to be reckoned with, but so will be that album where she gets everything perfect. She hasn’t made it there yet, but she’s not too far off either.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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