Jann Arden's perfect symphony

Mere minutes after midnight, I purchased Jann Arden’s much anticipated album — her first since 2015. Sitting in dark solitude, I let Arden do what she does best — tell me a story. By the time its 49 minutes were over, what was so clear (but obviously something that we already knew) is that Jann Arden is a master of her craft.

Above all, she is one of Canada’s greatest gems.

The eight-time Juno Award winner, known not just for her voice but also for her sense of humour, released her new album, These Are the Days, Friday. Produced by Bob Rock, who also served as a co-writer, the record comes during a hard time in the singer’s life — the death of her father and caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer's disease.

The “Could I Be Your Girl” and “Insensitive” singer’s voice and music has always been spirited and  down-to-earth. But there was something so raw about this album that you feel empowered to acknowledge and not be ashamed of vulnerability. The singer-songwriter has shared with us her soul, deepest fears and hopes. If we could describe this album in one word, it’s healing. She is giving us relief.

Arden has always written about real life. You’ll find everything you’ve ever said in a prayer or wished or hoped for in this album — that’s how in tune with one’s soul it is. There are also some feel-good tracks in here. From the R&B Aretha Franklin-esque “Everybody’s Pulling on Me” to the bluesy and gritty country-rock track “Come Down the River With Me” and the gratifying ballad “Little Bird,” Arden is taking us on one heck of a journey.

Here are ALTo’s top tracks from the album.

FYI it was super hard to pick just three.

A Long Goodbye:

“It’s hard to be a mother to my mother/ but it’s like you always said/
it’s a long goodbye.”

I cried when I heard this one. I wish I had heard it earlier in my own journey of grieving.

The stripped-down and wholehearted poem is about the hope and the fight to hold on to familiarity in the uncertainty. It’s so easy to get angry focusing on what seems like an injustice that your loved one is sick. But this song has turned the most vulnerable times in a family’s life into a song of healing tranquility.

Arden has been vocal about her mother’s Alzheimer's, chronicling it through social media. Her book, “Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in The Kitchen as My Mom Lives With Memory Loss,” gives us an honest account of the day-to-day challenges of caring for her mother and family and describes how they hold on to life’s little moments.

While Arden is talking specifically about her mother’s Alzheimer's, “A Long Goodbye” is for anyone who has cared for a loved one in failing health.

There are times when it feels like a free fall.

So many times, the change of parenting roles and having to be strong for too long feels like you are drowning in your emotions. Arden is letting us breathe here by giving us a window into her own struggles.

Hold on to the good times that you’ve had. She is telling us to focus on that because in the end, those moments are what become our legacy.  

Not Your Little Girl:

“I am cool and I'm wise/and I’m larger than your life/I am bigger
than the sun/watch me running to the end of all time/
I’ll be fine/watch me break into the finish line.”

Arden has gifted us with an electrifying power anthem that wakes up the warrior within us. The song is fuelled with a wise reminder — that we are strong and no one can change us.

Released on International Women’s Day, the song was thought to be a response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. In fact, it was written before then.

“I think I directed it at anyone who ever opposed me — anyone who told me ‘no,’” Arden said in an interview with CBC Music. “Anyone who told me I couldn’t wear that; anyone who ever told me that my body wasn’t right...or that my music wasn’t right.”

Still, this is the year of the woman and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

Maybe the message is the same, though. The song is one of resilience, about owning our womanhood.

The resilience in Arden’s chant, “I am an army...I’m your king and queen...you cannot rearrange me,” are words that every woman who has ever been doubted, or experienced self-doubt, needs to hear.

It’s the way Arden stood there in the music video, in black and white, where she acts as a mother in this sisterhood we all share, that we are reminded of our worth and our defiance.

Perfect Symphony:

“With all you’ve lost and all you’ve gained/you count your victories with pain/
this is all you’ll ever be/and that’s a perfect symphony.”

There is a fragility, but also a voice of endurance in this track. It was about the wisdom in learning from your failures and of survival.

A track of rock 'n' roll indulgence, “Perfect Symphony” is for the tenacious ones. Graceful in its lyrics, while coupled with brazen guitar, Arden has let us know that there is so much beauty in pain.

But can we get back to the guitar solo?

It heightened what I immediately felt in the very beginning of the song — like I was being swept into a whirlwind of something between the binaries of anger and courage and more importantly, the instability in the two. There is chaos in losing, taking, giving and relishing everything that life gives you.

Maybe putting your own pieces back together is what makes life worth living.

This song, for me anyway, was not just about counting your victories, but acknowledging everything you’ve been through.

Live every piece of your life unapologetically.