Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards is back with her fourth studio album and "Voyageur" has received its fair share of attention for her main collaborator on the project. Bon Iver front-man Justin Vernon not only co-produced the album, he can be heard throughout on various instruments, as well as providing prominent backing vocals. It marks a change in direction from Edwards folksier past, but results in one of the best releases in this early part of 2012.
That is not to say there are no elements of folk and country in the songs on "Voyageur". There is some twang in album opener "Empty Threat" and the short but sweet "Sidecar" to name a few. But there is a much more focused pop mentality to a good portion of these songs. First single "Change The Sheets" is as radio friendly as you'll hear Edwards, keyboards boiling underneath this summery pop/rock track.
The mid-tempo acoustic rock jangle of "Chameleon/Comedian" is another highlight, Vernon's influence can certainly be heard on this one, as can his vocal howls towards the end. The ballads are mostly saved for the end of the album, but there's not a bad one amongst the five included here. From the soft rock of "For The Record" to the atmospheric piano based "Pink Champagne", these songs are drenched in loveliness. None more than "A Soft Place To Land", a duet with Vernon, co-written by John Roderick. It's quickly entered the running for most beautiful song of 2012 with Edwards displaying her skills on the violin as well.
The darker, but no less gorgeous "Going To Hell" is another track not to be missed. 'I'm going to Hell in a basket I've made/woven from the letters and it spells your name', Edwards sings in the heart wrenching chorus. After a quiet start the song bursts into a sea of electric guitar and drums, never losing its stunning allure.
It's still early in the year, but "Voyageur" is destined for a spot in my rotation of albums I revisit time and again throughout 2012. I'm sure it will be there at year's end when it comes time to make my Best of the Year list as well. Norah Jones, Sean Carey (also from Bon Iver) and Francis and The Lights also guest on the album, but it is Vernon who leaves his biggest mark on "Voyageur". He's helped Kathleen Edwards craft what should stand as one of 2012's finest.