Barenaked Ladies

"All in Good Time" (Raisin') -- 3.5 STARS

COURTESY RAISIN'

It would be easy to expect Barenaked Ladies to be somewhat down since the departure of their frontman and primary songwriter Steven Page last year. However, their new album, “All in Good Time” remains remarkably hopeful and upbeat. The album’s second track, “Summertime,” epitomizes this bright and hopeful feeling, acknowledging the struggles of the present, but promising better things to come: “How do we make it through the day / How do we not cave in and bottom out / Well, you have to understand that soon enough / You’ll wake up from such a daze, thanks to all the petty ways / We’re all pushing through for summertime.” This feeling of guarded hopefulness permeates the album, ensuring that “All in Good Time” remains an uplifting and enjoyable, if far from essential, album.

Hope for the future establishes itself early as one of the album’s leading themes. On “Golden Boy,” one of the album’s catchiest tunes, vocalist Ed Robertson sings, “Hey golden boy / Don’t let the darkness in you take you away from yourself / Nobody else, there’s nobody left to make you run.” Upbeat, strong chords, with some funky, synthesized piano pieces create a playful sound, which, in combination with some classical violin pieces, give the album a very harmonious and happy-go-lucky feel. “On the Lookout” and “Every Subway Car” are other good examples of joyous melodies lending themselves well to a light and easy listen.

Occasionally the album does seem to hint at genuinely darker subject matter, but these attempts feel rather half-hearted. “How Long” is a great example: “So give it up for anger / It makes us strong,” the song begins. The song’s introduction, set amidst deeper tones and more ominous beats raises expectations of a darker mood, but the pace of the song changes abruptly and resumes the album’s positivity. Similarly, “I Saw It” begins with the lyrics “I saw, I saw it / We all did / It hurt and I heard it / We all hid,” but, the song progresses to a more hopeful outlook, stating, “I won’t let you down / From this point on / I won’t let you down.” The group’s refusal to really investigate the darkness underlying these tracks means that these songs are hardly deep meditations, but they do fit together well and provide a cohesive and pleasant message.

The album does not allow its music to fall into a comfortable formula, as each track differs notably from the others. Some tracks sport choral refrains while others feature heavily rhythmic rap-like lyrics—an element which has long been part of the band’s signature style. These tracks, especially “Four Seconds,” feature a large variety of rhythmic concoctions and utilize strong percussion pieces, adding a playful banter to the album. The album also incorporates slow tracks like “The Love We’re In” which balance out the fast and upbeat nature of the rest of the album. Much of the record, however, has a folky feel to it. This is especially evident on the songs written by keyboardist Kevin Hearn such as “Northern Lights,” which is largely dominated by slow meandering guitar playing, and “Jerome,” which sounds akin to an old country song. In context, these very different types of songs encapsulate Barenaked Ladies’ mobility and freshness and contribute well to the album’s versatile sound.

Though the band celebrated its 20th anniversary two years ago, Barenaked Ladies have made a clear statement that they are not finished creating solid and fun music. Instead of settling into a particular groove, “All in Good Time” is dynamic and innovative, building on and experimenting with their sound throughout the album. And, as the band continues to produce solid records, the future, like “All in Good Time” indicates, is bright.

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