Four years, as anyone will tell you, is a surprisingly long time—even if in hindsight it can feel like it flew by. And that universal rule holds true even for Lauren Mann, whose long-awaited follow-up to her debut album, Dearestly, is poppily packed with four years-worth of “triumphs, sorrows, incredible experiences, many miles traveled, lots of amazing people, and an incredible musical journey.”
The CBC Searchlight winner has both hit the road and holed up at home, moved from Calgary to Pender Island, and dropped Fairly Odd Folk from her stage name (but kept them on stage with her) in the time since Over Land and Sea came out. She’s also picked up a few new tricks working with Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, The New Pornographers, Mother Mother), who’s a master at turning Canada’s indie darlings into pop savants.
That just might be the cause of the spring in Mann’s voice, even on her most melancholy tracks. Dearestly is whimsical and winsome, but touched with the weight of a few more years of experience. Even the optimism in the rollicking “New Beginning” seems more fixated on running from the past than launching itself into the future—even if it does so in the catchiest way.
It contrasts immediately with “Brave Face” as it “sets course for land,” bolding imploring a new sense of adventure and wisely concluding, “nothing stays the same for very long.” Mann continues to lean on that seafaring language as she navigates her own changes, with “Talk of Leaving” imitating the rolling sea calling her on—and engaging once again with the idea of a home pulling her back, and excitement for what lies ahead if she can only bring herself to go.
Dearestly’s instrumentals soar along with Mann’s dreams, the strings on “Hibernate” pulling the midpoint of the album into its own winter winds, and follower “I Wanna Know” skips out a waltzing beat on guitar before ceding ground to a classical slow dance–an instrumental buildup that only progresses from there.
With her latest, Mann offers up escapism on every level, grappling with leaving and flitting onto adventure in the most tempting of ways. It’s a siren’s call that’s impossible to resist.
Top Tracks: “Brave Face”; “Show Me the Way”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)