Liner Notes is a close up look at a great new album you may have missed. This time, we zoom in on Un Blonde's Good Will Come To You, an album that didn't make the Polaris Prize short list but has us obsessing over it in mid-September as if it did.
It’s strange to be inconvenienced by great art.
This year marks my first as a Polaris Prize juror. More than anything I wanted my ballot to be reflective of my tastes while championing records that I truly believed were deserving of the prize. Ballots for the long list were due in early June, so anything released up until May 31 was considered eligible. Sure enough, on May 31, the final day of eligibility, with my choice of five records pretty much set, Un Blonde released Good Will Come To You. I was pissed.
Here, this amazing album comes along, throwing a wrench in the works, messing up my plans and forcing me to cut something from my nominations list that I’d worked so hard to compile. But it was evident after only one listen that it belonged there.Good Will Come To You is intoxicated with the thrill of life. It’s a celebration, grounded in the musical traditions of gospel music, and therefore a significant departure from the guitar abstractions of his early works or even the smooth R&B of last year’s Water The Next Day.
Listening closely to what Un Blonde's Jean-Sebastien Audet was saying on the record gave me room for pause. On “On My Grind” Audet sings “I’ve been on my grind for so long/it’s hard to know just who I am anymore.” While that lyric might allude to the numerous distinct projects Audet has taken on throughout his career (as I indicated in my review), it also perfectly encapsulated my own dilemma — the professional demands of my job as a music journalist were at odds with my enjoyment of the album on a more personal level.
That tension between professional and personal life persists throughout the album, making its title, Good Will Come To You, a kind of response. Its repetition throughout the record is equal parts self-assurance, and confident affirmation. The “good” he speaks of comes in the form of creativity and communion with others.
Sure enough, the Polaris short list announcement came and went and Un Blonde's Good Will Come To You didn't make the cut. Still, with the Polaris Prize gala looming this coming Monday (September 19), the record hasn't left my mind.
So, months later, without any ulterior arts jury motives, I spoke to Audet to try to uncover his creative process and suss out what exactly drove him to write this stunning record.
(Stay tuned on Monday for an interview with another beguiling artist who did make the Polaris short list.)
Chart Attack: I read that Good Will Come To You is the second record in a trilogy. Were the songs from all three recorded at the same time?
Gospel is rooted in Christ and whatnot, though the energy is of conviction and love - THAT'S my bag.
Is there a concept or idea that ties the material of all three records together?
The idea is to turn myself into music.
There is no title track on Good Will Come To You, but the title does repeat throughout the lyrics. At what point did you hone in on that phrase?
What a waiting game life is! I've never had any patience. I believe in when I say that good will come to me, which it has already in so many ways... Although I still find myself waiting waiting waiting day in and out. Stressing my intentions lyrically, documenting my movements towards those motives musically - this is how I can be sure good will come. I am then not wondering. I know exactly what my life will be.
There’s a lot of birdsong on this record. Were those sounds were recorded in a particular place?
All of the sounds of the world were recorded from two different bedrooms in my apartment. I live in front of a park and birds wake me up most of the time. Also saws and hammers and traffic.
The songs on this record are very much centred around your voice, which is still a new thing for Un Blonde. The vocal harmonies in particular seem to evoke gospel traditions. What’s your relationship with gospel music?
Gospel is rooted in Christ and whatnot, though the energy is of conviction and love - THAT'S my bag. I went to Catholic church weekly for years and never sang a song there in my life.
Would you call this a spiritual record?
Expressing oneself is spiritual in nature. To better answer the question though, there is no outgoing praise here. I've documented a portion of what is and what will be in my world. I am the expression and the reception.
The touches of gospel seem purposefully deployed here as you explore the themes of personal freedom and communion with others. Could you talk a bit about your approach to using musical styles in this way?
Right - this landscape was necessary to articulate certain ideas. These things flock together, though. My plans are incredibly rigid while also vague or abstract. They often have to do with colour, album title, album cover. This is the backdrop almost every time. The rest falls absolutely into place without question or concern for that preconceived visual... but because of the stage I set for myself, the product and message is undeniably concise and clear. Once that foundation is set prior to recording, I am that pink, yellow or blue record, and everyone and everything is participating in that narrative. The products are, indubitably, what they MUST be.