Havana Winter

Kevin Hearn

Celery Music, 2009


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


This is not a Barenaked Ladies album. I just want to get that out there right now. Kevin Hearn may be the keyboardist for the Canadian quirk-pop group, but there is little to no similarity between Havana Winter, Hearn's latest effort with his other group, Thin Buckle. To put this in perspective, Thin Buckle is as far from BNL as Chroma Key is from Dream Theater. (The keyboardists are, apparently, the quiet, weird ones.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Havana Winter is described in the disc’s promotional material as having 'snappier tempos' than Thin Buckle's previous release, The Miracle Mile. All I can say to that is that if this is snappy, I'd hate to see lackadaisical. The material here borders on the ambient at times; the first half of the CD rarely intrudes consciously. It's headphone music, or background music; Hearn's vocals range from subtle to thin for four tracks that after repeated listens, I'm not sure I could tell apart. At this point I was, frankly, wondering what the fuss was about – these four songs included guest appearances by Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and Chantal Kreviasuk, and I still couldn't get excited about them.

Then, of course, he completely breaks the mold. "Huntsville.ca" is an upbeat, lush pop masterpiece, filled with infectious percussion and laced with wide, Hammond-style organ and the dynamic saxophone of Richard Underhill. He continues the quality with both "In The Shade," a delightful foray into mid-‘60s style pop, and the wistful, powerful "H.I.T.S.” These three songs stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the album, so much so that I wonder if they were recorded at different times. The energy change is palpable.

So is Havana Winter worth your time? Maybe. The first half is listenable, but forgettable; the second half is well-crafted pop music that's worth listening to again and again. Half an album is better than none, I suppose.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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