- by Mark Moody Rating:7 Release Date:2018-08-10 Label: 2mm
Memoirist Mary Karr once succinctly described a dysfunctional family as a family with more than one person in it. Bitingly funny while also undeniably true, the thought also comes with a dose of relief in knowing that while things may vary by degrees we all have our scars. Winnipeg’s Taylor Janzen certainly doesn’t try to hide hers on her latest EP, Interpersonal. In spite of the release’s title the focus is more introspective than relational and the relationships that are described are toxic to say the least. Janzen is firmly in the confessional camp most recently inhabited by Julien Baker, and the tonality of the music is similar to Baker’s own debut.
The simply strummed acoustic ‘The Waiting Room’ stands alone, as it’s the only track that doesn’t directly contend with family issues. Directed towards a medical solution that addresses the symptom and not the cause, the song takes on an almost campfire gospel like simplicity that builds to powerful harmonies alongside Janzen’s confident lead. Her earnestness overcomes some of the soft targets in her sights, and the construct of the song makes sense given her strict religious upbringing and many a day undoubtedly spent in church.
The other three tracks here deal squarely with Janzen’s struggle to overcome her childhood, which she is barely beyond. ‘Colourblind’ contends with a mind lost to the black and white and not seeing the beauty in the messiness of shades of gray. Though Janzen doesn’t name names, it’s not hard to put the pieces together. The first single and opening track, ‘Stations’, makes it clear that the inflexible Old Testament upbringing described in ‘Colourblind’ results in the “invisible abuse” heaped upon her in this song. Belittling herself to just “a station that you stop at”, she does allow a ray of hope by turning that thought on its head by the end of the song. The closing ‘Better Now’ details putting on a brave face in spite of ones true feelings.
There’s nothing ground breaking going on here musically, but Janzen’s directness is an innate strength and her vocals rise and fall in the right places. Whether via memoirs, diaries, poetry, or in Janzen’s case songwriting, we are afforded many outlets to work through our junk whether self-inflicted or unearned in the case of a child. Though “character building” is not much consolation for a challenging upbringing, Janzen and the many that will relate to her have decades ahead to work out the few behind. Her willingness to be confessional, along with her forebears, enhances her art and its ability to heal. The way through is never as simple as taking your meds or writing a happy song.