T H E M A K I N G O F A N G E L S B E N D C L O S E R . . .
Jane Siberry Lets Nature Guide Her Toward Renewed Connection With Mainstream Listeners
Log-cabin contemplations and cosmopolitan feel mark first major release in years
TORONTO, Canada – When Jane Siberry began crafting Angels Bend Closer, her first major release in over five years, she set a lofty—and bold—goal: connecting with the “wider world.” Instead of going for original and esoteric, Siberry sought renewed mainstream accessibility.
To achieve it, she went in the exact opposite direction: off the grid. Siberry, it turns out, spends most non-winter months living without running water or electricity at her remote North Ontario log cabin.
“It’s so quiet,” she says, “it can actually wake you up sometimes.” It also allows her to tune in Earth’s own symphony—the fantasia of whispering trees, bubbling creeks and forest-animal choruses that informs these songs.
“Nature is what I decided, long ago, I would trust and take my spiritual guidance from,” says Siberry. It inspired her as she meticulously produced each track, then retreated to the hotel room where she spent nights chiseling her musical statements to perfect points.
“I speak more directly than I ever have in these songs,” she says. “I took the approach, ‘Time is ticking. Let’s not waste it if we’re going to communicate with each other.’”
And she wanted that message to be “something lush and beautiful and joyful and calming, in a world that’s very ungrounded these days.”
To say she has succeeded would be an understatement. These songs communicate as only Siberry can — with simultaneously elegant and earthy instrumentation and art-pop rhythms drawn from jazz, folk, rock, gospel and soul. Even when she addresses darker aspects of the human condition, her gossamer musical textures seem to float, carrying aloft lyrics that could stand alone as poetry.
From the first song, “Walk on Water,” and the push-pull “In My Dream” to “Geranium,” written years ago following the death of her father, and the final track, “The Great Train,” she beckons listeners into her world, and keeps us enthralled. Her voice dips and leaps around pristine, yet warm arrangements as she leads us through uniquely nuanced examinations of love, sex, pain, faith, hope, wonder and other experiences central to all of our lives.
Of course, she still manages to sandwich multiple meanings into each offering. One might assume the ballad “Anytime,” for example, sketches her thoughts regarding mortality and the strength of love; in it, Siberry sings, Someday when I’m long gone/I’ll still always be here/somehow ... maybe in the wind/or maybe in the rain/or maybe in a song/or maybe in the sunshine /the beauty of a rose/a feather falling near you/the kindness of a stranger/to show that I hear you.” Yet she reveals the song—one of two versions (there’s also an R&B/soul edition)—is also informed by her concern about children growing up in this day and age, and how she believes they should be treated. We’re too quick to accuse instead of respect, Siberry says, adding, “A lot of the songs I write are songs I wish someone had written for me when I was young.”
In “Send Me Someone to Love,” however, she offers a list of qualities she’s seeking in an adult companion: Someone whose lips I could understand/and who would understand/the language of mine/someone whose silence I could understand and who could understand the love within mine.
Throughout the album, Siberry deftly balances her natural-world contemplations with a cosmopolitan feel—particularly in songs such as “Hide Not Your Light,” which carries an ambient pop vibe suggestive of Brian Eno's Another Green World.
The resultalready has been heralded as a return to form for the wandering Canadian songstress, who first captivated the world with “Calling All Angels.” That k.d. lang duet appeared on Siberry’s 1993 album, When I Was a Boy, which also featured another of her most beloved tunes, “Sail Across the Water.”
Several voyages later, Siberry has come full circle with Angels Bend Closer. It even contains another duet with lang, on “Living Statue,” a prayerful request to let all life move through me freely, joy and sorrow, pure, intense.
Citing the album’s “jubilant melodies and phenomenal production,” Popdose.com writer Keith Creighton noted, “As heartbreaking as it is at times, Angels Bend Closer overall is a tremendously rewarding, enchanting and uplifting listen. It re-establishes Siberry as one of the great singers and songwriters of our lifetime.”
ABC News critic Allan Raible praised its “mesmerizing glow,” adding, “Thirty-five years since her solo debut, Jane Siberry has not lost her sense of mystique.”
She credits that polish to engineer Michael Verdick (Madonna, the Eagles) and to performer-turned-visual artist Dellamarie Parrilli, who served as executive producer/director of recording and designed the album’s striking artwork.
Parrilli, meanwhile, says she and Verdick just did some gentle tweaking. “The words and music, that’s all Jane’s. She created songs right in the studio,” Parrilli recalls. “She would lay down one track, maybe on piano. Then she would add strings and voices, singing harmonies against herself … I was just in awe, stunned by the creative genius I was witnessing right there in front of me.”
The term “creative genius” absolutely describes Siberry, though she claims she’s only now “inching my way into my prime.”
Over the course of her 20-album career, Siberry has inspired countless listeners; with Angels Bend Closer, she delivers a musical document likely to inspire generations more.