Published Oct 02, 2019It's been a long, but steady, road to recovery for Edmonton singer-songwriter Ian St. Arnaud. Following the tragic death of a friend and band member in late 2017, the beginnings of this album took shape. The Cost of Living marries Graham Lessard's rich, atmospheric production — he's known for his work with Basia Bulat and Timber Timbre, among others — with Ian's blunt and sardonic songwriting that lets the listener in on his mindset during an extremely turbulent time, to mixed results.
"The Introvert" is a personally relatable track about feeling the need to avoid contact with others and a general detachment from any interpersonal relationships, albeit a fairly jaunty one for the subject matter. Underscoring life's many transitions, "Everything's Changin'" is a stellar guitar/trumpet duel. Brass is peppered throughout the proceedings, nowhere more so on "Lovelock Waltz," masking its true intent of a protagonist in decline, searching for something more ("I need your help, my mental health is ailin', failin', fallin' for you") behind a cheery waltz-blues fusion.
Where things go wrong, however, is mostly attributed to a strong lack of cohesion. From one song to the next, it slowly blends together into a mix of folky guitars and nature metaphors. Hard not to say it comes across as simplistic at times, yet it leaves little to the imagination.
On the surface, The Cost of Living resembles a collection of mostly reworked songs, a very good collection, but still feeling like something important is missing. Comparisons to Andy Shauf and the Barr Brothers aren't far off, but as the title track puts it, "Time is my healer, my heathen mind needs many hours." This album would've benefited from more of those. (Independent)