Artist: Mikey Manville
CD Review: BROKEN ARMS
By: Dan Brisebois
The debut solo record from Mikey Manville is a well thought-out collection of pop ballads that take on a life of their own. The first thing that captures your attention when listening to BROKEN ARMS for the first time is the obvius passion he has for the stories that make up his music. It took three years to record while he also fronted The Manvilles – eventually 25 original songs were whittled down to 13.
Manville delivers thought provoking lyrics with grit and determination. He has a number of TV and film scores to his credit, both as a solo artist and with his band The Manvils. On his impressive list are the CBC and the indie films “Simon’s Bachelor Party,” “The Mustache Club” and “Spiked. “The Beatlesque “My Old Days” leads off the album, followed by “Me My Love.” whose tempo shifts are compelling, then “Parliament”. All are indicative of the album – inner reflective with stories to tell – and laid back with a purpose.
“Carolina/Orange” has a distinctive country flavoured tinge, complete with an acoustic guitar solo, and is one of the highlights of the album. The track goes directly into “Happiness,” featuring one of the most innovative productions of the year and with a sort of underground folk feel with a twist.
The title track and “Mountain” are another examples of how to incorporate country influences without losing track of a distinctive, but separate sound – and incorporate a pedal steel guitar, compliments of Bob Egan (Blue Rodeo, Wilco). Like the album in general, relies heavily on the acoustic guitar to balance out Manville’s powerful songwriting. The horns arrangement in “Falls Apart” are a compliment to tracks like “Holding On,” “Mountain” and “.” All are the most easiest of all easy listening – not duplicated sounds – just different varieties of the same flavour.
With lead off lyrics like ‘Am I happy or drunk,’ “Fall Back” is possibly the most self-reflective track on the album, with bare instrumentation and production, it’s also the rawest – wondering if he’ll be caught in the trap of going back to a loved one who he knows he’s better off without.
“Glass Heart” is another track that only features Manville’s soulful vocals accompanied by a slick guitar hook. “Firewood” and “She Calls Me In” round out the album
BROKEN ARMS is a collective representation of the personal attachments, and the inherent detachments of love and life in general of one of Canada’s finest musical troubadors. Manville scores big with the album, seducing you with an honesty that’s all too often rare. His humor, sorrow, and rage simmer between the surface of every note.