CD review: STRANDED IN SUBURBIA
By: Dan Brisebois
Melissa McClelland is a Hamilton area-based singer/songwriter who's honed her chops working with the likes of Hawksley Workman and The Rheostatics. After a self-titled indie album, she signed with The Orange Record Label, and might well break out nationally with her astonishing gem of a sophomore effort.
She's just released her second independent release STRANDED IN SUBURBIA, produced by future husband Luke Doucet. The first thing to catch my attention was her unabided warmth. The acoustic talent is real, her voice is better than simply 'all right'. Her poetic lyrics come from the heart and will hold you, and keep you listening, wanting more.
In a music industry already overrun with carbon copy females, each one less talented than her predecessor, I am pleased to know that genuinely original singers like McClelland are around, singers with their own unique style. Individualism is a rare commodity in the current pop scene, something Melissa McClelland has in abundance and lets shine through with STRANDED IN SUBURBIA.
Every song has its own special energy. With a startling combination of bouncy, up-tempo songs like "Little Birds" with a couple of dark-sounding piano ballads such as "Blue Farewell" and "Rooftop", without overstatement, this Chicago-born singer/songwriter compelled me. Most of the songs, essentially brutal snapshots of restless suburban angst, are moving portraits painted with a flare that's still accessible by the mainstream.
The bulk of the album are songs that are grounded in traditional folk roots. She's a skilled storyteller on "Picture Postcard". The lead single, "White Lies", is a guitar/pop song, very radio friendly. There's a little bit of everything on this album, such as the accordion-accompanied folk song "Smoke Signals" and the moving acoustic guitar-based "Glimpse into Hell". In fact, it's her versatility that is her strongest attribute.
By the time I was done listening to every song, including an interesting version of Bruce Springsteen's "Factory", I felt like I'd just returned from a musical journey. Then I decided to go for a return trip. STRANDED IN SUBURBIA is just one of those CDs you just can't help play a few times in succession. Sometimes hearing somebody else express their angst makes your own troubles seem less significant. Mellissa McClelland has every capability of becoming the new Canadian songstress of the 21st century.