While most of us were busy last Tuesday whetting our whistles on St. Patty’s day crusades, Joel Plaskett was releasing his newest album, The Park Avenue Sobriety Test.
It’s a busy record, with most songs composed and recorded live with tons of collaborators including Mo Kenney, Jenn Grant and of course, his Emergency mates.
“This one connects to all my records in some fashion. Musically I think different songs could reside on different albums in terms of the styles like the folk and the rock stuff but lyrically I try to connect the variety between the songs with an overarching lyrical theme,” says Plaskett.
The Park Avenue Sobriety Test was abbreviated simply to PAST at its record label early on, because it was too long to write out. Plaskett hadn’t even noticed the acronym’s connection to the album’s theme of nostalgic beginnings, the deceiving “footloose and fancy free” present, and an ending that ties the whole thing together with audible insight and personality.
Plaskett says he doesn’t usually get nostalgic about albums until way later, but the PAST is a different story.
“It felt like we were making new music but there was an element of ‘let’s rekindle the good old days’ and that felt really good. It wasn’t a sad thing – everyone was in the same room and you can feel that relaxed vibe on the album,” he says.
The artist stays busy co-writing and producing albums for other artists from time to time, something he says only adds to a collective knowledge he carries into each new album.
“When I go to make my own record I feel like I’m more in control of it than I’ve ever been so if I want to push it a little further somehow with something different – like making a record with live vocals – going out of my comfort zone a little bit is part of what brings the life to the record and changes it up.”
The talented Cape Breton-born J.P. Cormier bursts open the album’s second track, On a Dime, with some serious east coast fiddle riffs. It’s one of the few songs that doesn’t include a full band, which is why Plaskett asked Cormier to play.
“I knew I needed to hear somebody else’s personality on there to really open up the song,” says Plaskett. The album works off Plaskett’s unbreakable bond with his east coast roots, a theme you can pick out of each song whether it’s through Cormier’s perfectly chaotic fiddle riffs, or lyrics referencing ball hockey matches in the liquor store parking lot.
Sure, the record holds some melancholic songs, but Plaskett says with six or seven people playing one song, it’s still a good time.
“Even if there’s serious subject matter there’s still a lot of joy in the playing. I listen to this record and I hear a lot of people having fun.”
Plaskett says he still gets nervous when he puts a new record out because like any artist, he wants to keep his fans interested, but also bring them something new. The Park Avenue Sobriety Test manages to do just that.
“The last line of the album is ‘when you’re one of a kind you can’t get on the ark, so zip up your jacket and go home,’” says Plaskett. “It’s an analogy that’s summed up throughout the album as he reflects on years of work. If you think you’re so special you still have to deal with your own shit. This record I found a few themes that I hadn’t really tackled creeping into the lyrics.”
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