KEVIN'S DRAWINGS ARE BROUGHT TO LIFE IN THE BARENAKED LADIES VIDEO "DRAWING" (From the album "Snacktime"):
The Miracle Mile: Definitions
1: A stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Named in the 1920s for the Jewish immigrants who founded the banking industry there and financed miracles.
2: A legendary athletics showdown between Roger Bannister, the world record holder and first man ever to run a mile in under four minutes, and Australian arch-rival John Landy. Held at The Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, 1954
3: The fourth solo album from Toronto-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn. A world (class) record, 2006.
Kevin Hearn wrote the songs on The Miracle Mile during a stint as resident on the famed strip in The City of Angels. The setting sparked his muse, he explains. Being in a city where I dont know many people helps my writing. It makes it easier to focus. There, he came up with a collection of songs that explore expectations, hopes and dreams, disappointments and disillusionment. Los Angeles is a city of dreams, and of dreams not coming true.
With the aid of his longtime band, Thin Buckle, a couple of noted songsmiths (Ron Sexsmith and Steven Page) and top-calibre producers, Hearn has brought these songs to vivid and compelling life. Simultaneously esoteric, adventurous and accessible, it emerges as the finest work yet in a productive and highly successful musical career.
Best known as a skilled multi-instrumentalist in platinum-selling international pop heroes Barenaked Ladies, Hearn has long pursued a parallel solo career path. Over the course of three earlier albums, Mothball Mint (1997), H-Wing (2001), and Night Light (2004), he has operated underneath the commercial radar, but has earned a loyal international following with his highly idiosyncratic yet tuneful sound. That audience seems destined to expand dramatically with this new tour de force (his Warner Music Canada debut).
Hearns style defies easy definition, but his own choice is to term it Avant-Rock, rock music that pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance. It reflects the disparate nature of the music that has inspired him. As a [classically-trained] piano player, I was definitely influenced by keyboard music and the likes of Kraftwerk, Devo and The Residents, and I incorporate custom-made electronic sounds into the songs. Im also a big fan of singer/songwriters, like Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and Brian Wilson, so there are some guitar-driven songs on there as well.
The result is a fascinating sonic hybrid, one in which Hearns unerring gift for strong melody shines through. On The Miracle Mile, I was drawn to the ideas I had that were guided by melody, recalls Kevin. A lot of the songs were written on the piano as melodies before there were words. I presented them to the band, and when Bob (drummer Great Bob Scott) and Chris (bassist Chris Gartner) added what they felt their parts should be, I started singing along and that suggested lyrics.
The musical empathy within Thin Buckle (Hearn, Gartner and Scott first played together back in the late 80s, in offbeat rock band Look People) is clearly audible. So too is Hearns longtime creative collaboration with co-producer Michael Phllip Wojewoda, who has worked extensively with Barenaked Ladies and produced both Kevins solo debut, Mothball Mint, and H-Wing.
Manning the console for much of the recording of the bed tracks was noted American producer/engineer Jim Scott (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash). Securing his services was an unexpected coup for Hearn. Jim was the engineer on the Barenaked Ladies Maroon record, and we hit it off. I had demos of all these songs, and asked him for advice. He said this is great stuff. When are we recording it?
Another high-profile name in the credits is that of legendary string arranger/composer Van Dyke Parks (Beach Boys). He both came up with a brilliant string arrangement on the atmospheric Satie-like title track and insisted on having Kevin sing right through a tune originally envisaged as primarily an instrumental.
Kevin was able to recruit other talented friends for some songwriting collaborations. BNL comrade Steven Page co-wrote the suitably infectious Good Time Virus, while Ron Sexsmith co-wrote three songs here, Rescue Us, Here For You, and High And Low. I drove and Ron gave me directions, is how Kevin describes the partnership. Solo Hearn compositions do provide many of the highlights of an album devoid of lowlights, as exemplified by the warm and breezy first single, In The Country.
High-profile help aside, The Miracle Mile remains driven by Kevin Hearns unique vision. In his songs, he probes the human condition with both surgical skill and a deep, hard-earned sense of compassion. His perceptive insights are then framed by gently seductive melodies and sweet and subtle vocals.
As has been well-documented, Kevin faced down a life-threatening illness when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1998, necessitating a bone marrow transplant. The silver lining was that it helped me write a lot better, to dig deeper inside and deal with those thoughts. I feel I can sing about dark subject matter with some understanding. I have seen a lot of pain and sadness and I know what it takes to get through those things, humour and friendship, for instance. I think that has some value and can perhaps touch people, through music.
Indeed. Hearns deep sense of humanity is reflected eloquently in songs like Lancaster Bomber, Statue of Los Angeles and Human Genome. Topics like, respectively, World War 1 bombers, cosmetic surgery, and medical research are not your typical pop fodder, but the catchiness of the tunes are such that youll find yourself humming and singing along with their unconventional lyrics.
That is a rare gift, one that makes The Miracle Mile an album that demands and rewards your very close attention.
To Purchase The Miracle Mile, please visit www.kevinhearn.com OR www.warnermusic.ca
The Toronto Star
Kevin Hearn has already written most of an album, 2001's H-Wing, while being treated for leukemia at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital. But his subsequent recovery has not prevented the Barenaked Ladies' keyboard player from revisiting the experience in fruitfully creative ways. "Map of the Human Genome," an entirely entrancing song about the study of chromosomes in a hospital research laboratory, has to rank as an unlikely candidate for this summer's hidden pop gem. Like much of the rest of The Miracle Mile, Hearn's fourth album with side project Thin Buckle, the song is beautifully arranged, blending acoustic guitar, electronic burbles and muted vocal effects. Elsewhere, Hearn channels Art Garfunkel on his own attempt to bridge troubled waters, "Rescue Us," while lacing the title track with harp and strings. Magical. VW
It's a shame that Kevin Hearn can't quit his day job. The multi-instrumentalist spends most of his time in the Barenaked Ladies backing up Steven Page and Ed Robertson when he should be pushing his solo career. Hearn's fourth record, and best yet, is an intimate affair full of sensitive melodies and soft-spoken vocals that bring to mind Paul Simon in his prime. But the lyrics, which discuss his successful battle with cancer, are what listeners will enjoy the most. On The Good Times Virus, Hearn uses humour to tackle a serious subject, while Map Of The Human Genome, the record's standout track, deals with the singer-songwriter's first visit to the doctor. Throw in a cameo by Ron Sexsmith and a string arrangement by Van Dyke Parks and this isn't just one of Hearn's best, but one of the best records of the year. Kevin Hearn plays August 9 at the Drake.
It's been some eight years since Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn kicked leukemia - an ordeal that informed his sobering 2001 solo effort, 'H-Wing', with his own band Thin Buckle - but as is often the case with life-threatening/altering experiences, the reverberations are felt long after. On the fantastical 'Miracle Mile', Hearn refers to The Flaming Lips school of existential-crisis management, both in the celestial synth/symphonic arrangements and in the curious examination of the precarious balance between science and faith. For Hearn, all the world is not a stage, but a hospital, a strange place where first dates are consummated amid the sterility of a laboratory on the stellar, vocoderized soft-rock epic "Map of the Human Genome", and even expressions of unbridled joy are delivered in the language of disease ("The Good Times Virus"). But his is a sick ward where being a patient is a virtue. SB
The Globe & Mail
Only a man who beat cancer and endures long road tours with his wacky Barenaked Ladies bandmates finds solace in the chaos of Los Angeles. That is the city where Toronto singer-songwriter and BNL keyboardist Kevin Hearn wrote 11 songs of his marvelous fourth album. On a record that is clever, melodically eloquent and often catchy, Hearn finds humane uses for a decommissioned war machine ("Lancaster Bomber"). On the hopeful "Map of the Human Genome", medical science is humanized, much in the same way the disc's subtle electronica is warmly employed. "Southbound" is soft-mood Beck; on the country-touched single "Here For You", Hearn is the considerate partner. Among disruption, Hearn finds harmony. - Brad Wheeler
The View - Hamilton
"A Moody Masterpiece."
"Another gorgeous collection of cosmic pop"
"Kevin Hearn's music is like a dream"