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The Grid Reviews Scrappy Happiness

His marathon approach to the recording of Scrappy Happiness confirms it: Joel Plaskett is Canada’s hardest working national treasure.

Sure, his latest opus might not be as wildly ambitious as 2009’s epic triple album, Three, but it’s the result of the Nova Scotian rock icon boldly rising to meet a unique sonic challenge. Scrappy Happiness is a concept album in form, not in content. Plaskett spent one week recording, mixing, and mastering each tune, then rolled them out, one by one, as they were completed, to be premiered individually on CBC Radio. Taken as a cohesive work—and combined with the YouTube videos that document the album’s loving creation—we’re left with a record that’s less immediately catchy than the pure pop Plaskett channeled on his last two studio albums (both of which were nominated for the Polaris Prize), but it’s equally rewarding nevertheless.

The title is a fitting descriptor, as Plaskett’s Emergency band kicks up a little dust around the frontman’s melodic gold on the rollicking classic rock of the album’s bookends, “Lightning Bolt” and “North Star,” then steps back to let him summon the Celtic spirit at the heart of acoustic-led standout “Harbour Boys.” But most importantly, highlights like “You’re Mine” and “Time Flies” prove that Plaskett’s greatest talent—wringing wistful emotion out of stomping rock songs—remains very much intact. It’s a skill he’s mastered and, clearly, one he can deploy even when on deadline.

Playlist Picks: “Harbour Boys,” “You’re Mine,” “Time Flies”