Joel Plaskett is recording an album, Scrappy Happiness. Right now. As we speak.
Or should I say, as we tweet. The Nova Scotian rocker is recording exactly one song a week, releasing each of them on iTunes as he (with help from his two-piece backing band, the Emergency) finishes them. The progress can be followed via his Twitter account. On Wednesday, he blurbed about the status of the seventh single, I’m Yours, which we immediately found out was “mixed, delivered to mastering and out of my hands.”
If there’s no rest for the wicked, there’s no rest for the scrappy either. On Thursday, the process began again. The band had reconvened at Plaskett’s Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth to start on the eighth track, Tough Love. “Amps are warming up,” his electronic followers were notified, in real time, “mics are being placed.”
It’s not the easiest way to record an album. It’s not the hardest, either. It’s just the way to record this album: “There’s an arbitrary slowness to everything now that doesn’t make sense, given how quick the technology is,” says Plaskett, on the line from Dartmouth. “I write words and melodies and I just record them, get them out there and move on.”
Plaskett has been on the move since Jan. 10. Each new single premieres on CBC Radio 2’s Drive with Rich Terfry at 5:15 p.m. (ET) every Tuesday. The completed Scrappy Happiness will be available in its entirety March 27, but fans can follow the record’s making at joelplaskett.com.
The project compares to the stunt pulled by Jonathan Coulton, a U.S. singer-songwriter who, from Sept. 16, 2005, to Sept. 30, 2006, conducted an online “Thing a Week” initiative. Coulton wrote, recorded and released weekly songs over the course of that year. (Unlike Coulton’s material, Plaskett’s pieces were already written before the recording schedule commenced.)
Working conceptually is nothing new to the 36-year-old Plaskett, a gifted singer-songwriter whose previous album was the Juno-winning Three. It was a triple LP, released on 03/24/09 – numbers all divisible by three – with lyrics marked by words and phrases repeated, you guessed it, three times.
“I don’t want there to be an angle to every record,” says Plaskett. “But I do recognize that there’s a sea of music by other people that I’m swimming in. If I can present my work differently, it gives people something to grasp on to – a starting point.”
Part of the commitment with the new album involves its inevitable imperfections – the scrappiness. Plaskett’s okay with the rough edges, noting his own fanship for a record such as Candy Apple Grey by alt-rockers Husker Du. “I love that record, but I don’t think I love every song on it,” he explains. “I wouldn’t change it though. It’s so right to me.”
Having endured the two minutes and 37 seconds of Linda McCartney’s Cook of the House on each listen of Wings at the Speed of Sound as a teenager, I understand what Plaskett means. “Alchemy and rock ’n’ roll is about the moment, and doing it,” says Plaskett. “This is what I did this week, and here it is. Will it stand the test of time? Who’s to say.”
by Brad Wheeler