ALBUM REVIEW: Tenille Townes – ‘The Lemonade Stand’

LifeInASong_UK

Today marks a big milestone in the career of Canadian rising star and Sony recording artist, Tenille Townes. She’s proven herself as one of the most promising breakout talents over the past year or so, with the chart success of ‘Somebody’s Daughter’, and the follow-up single ‘Jersey On The Wall’, which tugged at heartstrings far and wide. Fans really seem to be connecting with her brand of music, which essentially combines a wonderful traditional-leaning vocal with some very modern, current lyricism and production, and there will be high hopes for her debut album, ‘The Lemonade Stand’, which is available everywhere now.

The album has been produced by in-demand studio genius, Jay Joyce, and as Tenille told us earlier this week, Jay’s involvement has cranked up the quality of her material to a whole new level. Having worked on albums for the likes of Little Big Town, Eric Church, Zac Brown Band and more, Jay has added a touch of magic to ‘The Lemonade Stand’ with some retro vibes in places, and it’s opened up a whole new world of discovery for Tenille from a creative standpoint.

“Jay is so incredible in the way that he really gives the song the space to breathe and become what it’s supposed to be. He’s not afraid to try anything, so I would stand there at my little station in the studio and play the song in the way that I’d play it in my living room. He’d walk over the synth pad and sing in the vocoder on this part, I’d think ‘where are we, are we back in time in the 80s, this is so exciting.’ It has a lot of those elements and also the way the guitar feels a little throwback to me too in places. It’s exciting to see how that all comes together in the blender of this album.”

Those 80s synth elements are clear in the likes of ‘Come As You Are’, which is the strongest track on the album for me. It’s the ultimate feel-good, care-free anthem that’s guaranteed to get you up dancing, and it encapsulates Tenille’s very sweet, fun personality. Great groove, great message and an all-round great track that will be a blistering success in Tenille’s live shows. We also hear a similar style of production on the opening track, ‘Holding Out For The One’, another huge singalong opportunity for the big stages, and the poppiest track on the album, ‘Find You’, which is a huge throwback explosion packed full of synthesised instrumentation mixed with acoustics, which is a common theme here production-wise.

‘The Way You Look Tonight’, featuring Keelan Donovan, is another of the album’s strongest moments, a very pretty duet with a soaring chorus and some beautiful ethereal sounds. Impeccable harmonies between two very distinctive vocalists, combined with a truly atmospheric vibe, results in a track that will become an instant fan favourite. The chugging, runaway train melody of ‘Lighthouse’ and the ‘oh ohhhh’ hook in the chorus is another instant favourite from the first listen, and is a lovely merging of a traditionally-written country song with more up-to-date melodic techniques. 

The one moment where the production perhaps hasn’t been so effective is ‘Where You Are’, which has been available for a long time as an acoustic recording on Tenille’s ‘Living Room Worktapes’ EP. There was a magic in the sparseness and rawness of the original recording which becomes a little lost on the album version, but that’s all down to personal preference. The original also captured the quality of Tenille’s live performances too, and showcased just how good she is acoustically. That’s probably a common issue that comes with re-recording previously released material, when fans are already accustomed to the original.

It’s in the more organic, raw moments where Tenille really shines to her full potential. The aforementioned ‘Jersey On The Wall’ is the epitome of emotional country storytelling, written about a trip Tenille had to a college, where a jersey was hung on the gym wall for a student who had been killed in a car crash. “If I ever get to heaven, you know I got a long list of questions like how do you make a snowflake? Are you angry when the earth quakes?… “Why couldn’t you stop that car from crashing?”. A brutally honest, important piece of songwriting that all of us, religious or non-religious, can appreciate. Easily one of the best tracks from back in 2018.

The sequencing of the album is intriguing, too, with her signature hit, ‘Somebody’s Daughter’, placed in the penultimate position. In our chat earlier this week, Tenille said:

it’s one of my favourite things to be able to talk about when making a record, so much about the adventure and what you want people to feel when they’re listening to these songs. To be honest, where ‘Somebody’s Daughter’ fell, it was there before it became a single, I wanted it to be toward the end of the messaging and to end with ‘The Most Beautiful Things’ was always the plan. For the rest of the sequencing, I knew I wanted ‘When I Meet My Maker’ to be number seven, because that just feels like the right number that that song should be sitting at and starting out with ‘Holding Out For The One’ just felt like the right anthemic statement to be making. The rest of the songs just found their home in the sequence, a lot of that came from Jay’s creativity in linking the sonic pieces together.”

‘The Most Beautiful Things’ leaves us with the message that the greatest, most valuable parts of life are “felt and never seen”. It completes the album on a reflective note, showcasing the class of Tenille’s heartfelt songwriting once again. 

Not too long ago, Tenille announced that she had teamed up with RCA, Columbia Nashville and the SMN label group for the release of this new music, and they would be taking care of the “global” plan for Tenille’s music. The reality is that this album is a far cry from the stripped-back, traditional country girl we heard on the ‘Living Room Worktapes’ EP, and it seems there may be a plan for her outside the confines of the country market. This is an album that’s accessible for all, and crosses boundaries without any hesitation. A hugely creative, ambitious debut.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan

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