Published Nov 24, 2020Auteur theory does not sit well with Canadian musician Mike Edel. He may be a solo artist, co-writing all of his songs, but his fourth album, En Masse, is about discovery through the process of collaboration. It's the follow-up to 2019's Thresholds — the record that really started to focus eyes his way.
This spirit of collaboration informs the album lyrically and sonically (it also makes the album's title make more sense). En Masse saw production and mixing contributions from Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire) and Andy Park (The Head and the Heart, Noah Gundersen), and the rousing rhythm of some of those bands can be heard in Edel's tracks; the production is fulsome and illuminating without being overbearing.
The album constantly interchanges between exuberant pop and more melancholic rock. "Hello Universe" and "Good About Everything" make for a bright and sprightly one-two opening punch — the former containing a chorus that wouldn't sound amiss on a Foster the People record. They're immediately followed by the similarly upbeat and catchy "Sunshine," featuring wishful lines like, "I need a vacation / Just you and me in the sunshine."
More often, though, Edel sounds lovelorn and forlorn: titles like "Lose You," "Still Thinking About You" and "Need You" are self-explanatory, downtempo pieces after the flashy beginning. All maintain Edel's need for strong interpersonal connections; "With you by my side, I can do anything," he cries on the acoustic tune "Need You." His strongest offering is "Giving Up on Giving In," which appears melancholic upon first listen but is really Edel's quietly powerful ode to perseverance.
En Masse might not deliver such sought-after stardom, but what it does do is show that strong pop-rock can thrive outside of the commercial charts. (Indi Pennant)