Die erste Vorladung (VII)
Other modern pop travelogues (by the Fiery Furnaces, Sufjan Stevens, Decemberists, etc.) combine wide narrative scope with wild musical dexterity, but Health‘s tastefully deployed baroque pop proves to be the ideal foundation for MacIsaac’s expressionistic character sketches. As a songwriter, he favors stylistic consistency to undue experimentation. The result is a particularly focused album simultaneously free of filler and overflowing with characterization. Pop music history is littered with delayed albums that were likely made duller with each attempt to salvage a losing prospect. But Health is a rare exception, so refined that the delay seems justified or beside the point. It joins SMiLE, Odessa and Deserter’s Songs in the tradition of albums whose realization far outshines their checkered gestation.
For those who seek it out, Health is a lush, intricate album that will not only endure, but will age gracefully. That grace is richly penned into its DNA. From the “My Darling Clementine” homage of war-stricken beauty “Anna Karina, I Was Wrong” to the Serge Gainsbourg-indebted French waltz of “Mes Craintes Oubliées” to the Polyphonic Spree-esque optimism of “Call It A Day,” The Heavy Blinkers have generously bestowed a cornucopia of stunning arrangements and visceral storytelling (“When You Go,” “Someone Died At The Ice Capades,” “God Bless Hazel,” and the clever “Little Drummer Boy” reinvention of “Silence Your Drum”) that are both relatable and purely awe-inspiring.
The impressive achievement of Health is perhaps well-summarized with a nod to old Hollywood. In a modern age comprised of films boasting artistic merit that clamors for Oscar glory, it’s not hard to see how heavily the token summer blockbusters loom over the world of cinema. Every year, there are Academy Award contenders that are shoo-ins for Oscar contention simply because they are period pieces that elicit genuine emotion from the audience. MacIsaac seems to have rooted Health in many of the same desires as an Oscar-winning director like Tom Hooper did with certain Academy Award nominees like The King’s Speech or Les Misérables, but MacIsaac’s Heavy Blinkers may have pulled off a feat thatcould go on transcend period piece greatness and strive for the realm of timelessness.
There may be other records this year that can put a The King’s Speech sort of period spell over listeners, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else setting their musical sights on the everlasting air of Casablanca or the best of Capra in quite the same manner The Heavy Blinkers have done and achieved with Health.
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