Edmonton, Alberta – the gateway to Canada’s north, home of the NHL’s Oilers and the CFL’s Eskimos, and the overly massive West Edmonton Mall. It is also the city that once was home to k.d. lang, Mac DeMarco, and Shiloh. Another name to add to the list is Faith Healer, the new project of Jessica Jalbert with much support from her friend and long-time collaborator Renny Wilson. While the two have been creating music together for years (summery garage-rock with the Tee-Tahs, self-explanatory Punk Explosion, and Liz Phair-style indie rock on Jalbert’s debut solo album, Brother Loyola), the project as Faith Healer might be the one that expands their notoriety beyond the Alberta capital city.
The first album under the Faith Healer moniker, Cosmic Troubles, is a terrific, psychedelic experience. It doesn’t overwhelm with reverb and rivaling guitars like Thee Oh Sees nor feel trippy like The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Instead, it is much more intimate, a touch dreamy, and even a little romantic. This approach plus the themes (self-awareness, relationships), and the almost dead-pan vocals of Jalbert recall the brilliant Fast-Moving Clouds by Sarah Bethe Nelson, in particular on “No Car” and “Universe”, specifically the ability to create an enormous amount of atmosphere with the slow build followed by the wildly catchy guitar riffs. They’re breathtaking.
Even on the self-wallowing singles (such as the opener “Acid”) and the break-up songs (e.g., “Again”, which resonates with the sounds of Portland’s Blouse), Jalbert and Wilson are able to produce songs that give the opposite feeling, namely that of freedom and excitement. “Fools Rush In”, meanwhile, has the utopian feel of music of the late ’60s yet speaks about the difficulties of living with someone. It’s a beautiful, mellow track that leads. But not all the tracks are psychedelic oriented, as “Infinite Return” pays homage to Joni Mitchell ’70s-esque soft-rock tune.
Although the album has a number of outstanding songs, “Canonized” is the star. It’s grittier, rawer than any of the other tracks. It has an edge of anger and even detestation as Jalbert sings about getting over someone. It’s a song that could rip out a person’s heart but then there’s a feeling of satisfaction and euphoria as the songs reaches is buzzing climax.
Whereas “Canonized” is a hard-hitting track, “Until the World Lets Me Go” is full of optimism and a wonderful ending. A coming-of-age song, it leaves the listener on a high. Despite the album’s title and the songs before it, all the troubles are left behind on this spacy tune and on this awesome record. Move over k.d. lang and Mac DeMarco, here comes Faith Healer.
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