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Storytelling in songs

Musician Ray LaMontagne on stage.
Musician Ray LaMontagne on stage.
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Supernova by Ray LaMontagne

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Storytelling takes many forms. Long before the printed word, people told stories through the spoken word and through songs. Of course, this is still a big part of our lives in many different ways. People tell stories to one another in their daily lives, we watch stories played out in movies, in the theater and on TV. But storytelling through song is very special in that it is usually accompanied by music which adds a another layer to the experience, making the words more meaningful. There have been many songwriters over the years who I consider akin to novelists including: The Beatles; Sara Bareilles; The Hollies; Leslie Feist; Burt Bacharach; Ulvaeus/Anderson; Cole Porter; Peter Allen; Sugarland; Duffy; Jewel; Billy Joel and others.

In the 2007 romantic comedy Music and Lyrics songwriter Alex Fletcher defended his art by talking about how a great pop song can make you feel better faster than any book.

Every once in while I'll hear a new song that it both entertaining and truly meaningful. Recently, I discovered Ray LaMontagne's new album Supernova which dropped April 29, 2014, and was impressed by how expressive and atmospheric the tracks were.

Supernova, the fifth studio album for the critically acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning Ray LaMontagne, is a definite departure from his previous work. Fans will be surprised to encounter a less grungy, more polished and sophisticated sound than what they've come to expect from the alternative rocker. However, LaMontagne hasn't completely turned his back on his roots. Airwaves, for example, has a slightly folk music quality and its scaled back, relaxed sound, makes the listener feel like they're hearing a few musicians perform in the laid back atmosphere of a small club or coffeehouse. While Airwaves could be labeled as underproduced, other tracks like Lavender, and the title track Supernova,could easily be termed overproduced. But these slick and somewhat crowded numbers do have a certain appeal. LaMontagne is successful in creating a rich, textured "wall of sound". Lavender has an intoxicating, almost hypnotic feel to it. But where Lavender is mellow and sentimental, Supernova is stirring and upbeat.

LaMontagne appears to be trying to please his base with some tracks and reaching for wider audience with others. Maybe he's just exploring different genres, as most artists do at some point, in an effort to grow and avoid predictability. Whatever his motives the diversity of the songs make for an eclectic album. One thing that the tracks have in common is LaMontagne's trademark raspy vocal.

Some of the numbers in this collection are rousing, some are reflective, but they are all original, carefully crafted and will make listeners sit up and take notice.