Thursday, October 25, 2012

Emm Gryner - The Best Of [album review]

Released on Tuesday

I won't go on about how Canadian artist Emm Gryner is a woefully underappreciated talent...I already did so in my probably gushing "Get to know Emm Gryner" post back in June. The Best Of nicely summarizes her career since the musician's 1995 debut album release of And Distrust It, with 18 songs that range from aching ballads to highly infectious pop. The first 1000 CD copies of The Best Of come with a bonus disc comprised of 19 more career-spanning tracks. As usual, anyone who put in an early pre-order for the album on her website received their CD signed and a heartfelt note from the musician, an always appreciated personal touch from Gryner. The album booklet also features brief, but illuminating recollections of all of the main disc's songs.

I'm more partial to the mid-to-present-day portion of Gryner's career, so there's a few omissions from her more recent work that are missed, such as her memorable duet with Sass Jordan on "Sunrise Sometimes", "Leftover Love", and "Black-Eyed Blue Sky". Most head-scratching, however, is the absence of "Sweet Destroyer". I'd listened to each of The Best Of discs once before I realized the song was nowhere to be found on either, which completely shocked me. Frankly, it'd be in a dead heat with "North" as my favourite Gryner song. Out of curiosity, I went and looked up the 15 songs I picked a few months back for a Gryner best-of playlist compiled for some friends and family and found it interesting that only five of my picks matched up with those assembled on The Best Of's main disc. But listen, the last thing I want to do is turn this into a petty bitch session when it involves an artist I admire so much. These types of compilation releases will never please everybody, especially if your aim is to provide a representation of your entire body of work, as Gryner has done here (she also sought tracklisting feedback from fans on Facebook). 

That some of my favourite tracks might not appear and The Best Of remains a fantastic collection of songs is a testament to the bounty of first-rate music that Gryner has produced over the years. Again, just sticking to what's on the main disc, it's difficult to argue with the inclusion of earlier tracks like "Summerlong", "Your Sort Of Human Being", "Stereochrome", and her haunting piano-driven covers of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me". The Summer Of High Hopes album is deservingly well-represented with four essential tracks: "Girls Are Murder", Blackwinged Bird", "Almighty Love", and "All-Time Low", so that might explain the omission of "Sweet Destroyer", which also appeared on that release. Her uplifting duet with Nova Scotia's Joel Plaskett on "Gold Soul Of Rock N Roll", "Ciao Monday", and "North" round out the tracks representing Gryner's last couple of years of work. The two funked-up new songs (one on each disc), "Trans Am" and "Live Like Legends", are worthy additions to Gryner's catalogue, while additional one-per-disc bonus tracks "The Winter" and "Safety In Solitude" offer a welcome taste of the musician's earliest professional work for those of us fans who have never been able to track down the long-unavailable And Distrust It. "Safety In Solitude" is particularly impressive, with a bigger orchestral sound than I would have expected from Gryner's first outing.  

Coming up for Gryner is the November 6th release of her next project as part of the trio Trent Severn, with Dayna Manning and Laura C. Bates. Sweet harmony vocals and a celebration of Canadiana is promised. After that, Gryner teases in the note she included in The Best Of that her next solo release "might be a rock record", which is certainly interest-piquing as someone who shares her love of 80s hard rock. 

Rating: A

Sample Gryner's music at her SoundCloud page and purchase it at iTunes. Below is a video of her performance of "North" from the CBC studios...yes, I already included the video with my June review of Gryner's Northern Gospel album, but it's so damn good that I thought it merited another posting.