by Jackson Martel (@JacksonMartel_)
Faith healing refers to the idea that one can cure disease or ailment through religious faith, prayer, or other rituals. A google search of the term “faith healer” results in 1) the obligatory Wikipedia entry on the subject, 2) the Bandcamp page for the artist in question here, and 3) an endless number of articles, anecdotes and opinions that all address one inaccessible question: does faith healing work? Can a metaphysical force exert itself on physical, material reality? Try ;-) by Edmonton-based Faith Healer marinates in this question, evokes the spirit and gives the only acceptable answer. “Why not try,” it postures, while winking at you in a saucy and knowing kind of way.
If it’s going to work however, you’ve got to let go a little bit – relinquish control and allow the spirit to move you. Every moment on the record is accordingly effortless, breezily guided by a celestial pilot. It carries you through a romp of laid back grooves and loose guitar solos, pretty and playful melodic tapestries that once pulled back, reveal simple, unassailable rock and roll. Cool and casual street walks that lead to moments of angelic communion. Oscillating between sixties rock nostalgia and dream pop, Try ;-) shows the band breaking out from the boundaries of psych pop that it found itself in on previous efforts. In the words of singer and songwriter Jessica Jalbert herself on “Light of Loving,” – “it’s a singular idea, it doesn’t have to turn its head.”
"Light of Loving" begins in a haze of dark opaque bass tones, bluesy guitar and swirling psych synths, until Jalbert cuts through the smoke singing “suddenly the light of loving is over my head,” self-sure, beautiful and monotone as the beacon she describes. The song seems to be a treatise on the importance of one’s attitude. Once it breaks through the malaise with a driving highway section, a refrain of “if I focus on the cloud,” enters and repeats. The song and lyrics work to suggest that one maybe shouldn’t focus on the cloud, a cliché about disposition that’s miraculously free of banality in the context of the song. If you can look past the shadow of a doubt straight into the light of loving – a light that is viscerally felt in the music – perhaps its power will work. The song proceeds to drive off a cliff into a liberated, raucous jam that sells the plan.
Try ;-) is a nine song album that boasts nine strong, unique songs, but the peak is undeniably the title track. As an album, Try ;-) 's greatest strength is its ability to layer simplicity with profundity. It defies rational thought but is yet strongly felt. This quality is most apparent on “Try ;-)”. Here, the band is at its most effortless, with a strolling bass line that feels like the musical analogue to Jalbert’s soulful, blowy musings. “Is it the strength of my emotion // is it the weakness of my soul // that keeps me laughing at the answer” – the angelic synths return – “I wanna cry about it, oh.” Jalbert’s voice shines particularly on this track, straddling the border between cool detachment and lush expressiveness in the vein of legendary Broadcast vocalist Trish Keenan. The song ends up with Jalbert repeating the line “I don’t think I could try to fight it,” over and over before the paean becomes paper thin, carried away on a slight westerly wind.
This is an album of emotional and conceptual extremes. There’s the pedestrian and the celestial, the new and the nostalgic, and the electronic and the analog. There’s detachment and sincerity, laughing and crying. In this complex fabric, one comes out the end unsure how to feel, maybe to the point that the only gesture that makes sense is an ambiguous, impish, knowing little wink. Because once you know, you know, and only then, and the only way to find out is to try. The power does not work in the presence of nonbelievers.