With the release of their debut seven-track EP, “Normalize,” back in 2018, this music from Toronto rockers Joan Smith & The Jane Does boasted a sound and demeanor firmly cemented in the hard rock genre. “Normalize” not only restored my faith in the true independent rock scene being alive and well, but given the ground-breaking originality of this music, earned a spot in my year-end round up of the best Canadian releases for that year. So imagine my excitement here in 2020 upon learning that Joan Smith has some brand new music on the horizon, with the first new single, “Help Me Out,” and an accompanying video, being released here today.
Spinning this single for the first time, I was caught a little off-guard by the slower, indie alt-rock intro., complete with some distorted guitar riffs and handclaps. Followed by some heavy, throbbing bass lines and guitar static, Joan’s distinct vocals quickly filled the airwaves, delivered with less intensity than expected, but more passion than anticipated too (passion that is always there, I must add, but delivered in spades here). “You won’t hear this, so I might as well stop / Ties that bind are such a tricky knot / Tearing it in until my fingers bleed / Can I just cut it off and then I’ll be free? / Can you help me out? / Can you help me out? / I don’t wanna get back in / But I can’t find my way out,” Joan recites in an indie-alternative style delivery, backed up with instrumentation that does nothing to hide the proud hard-rock heritage at their core.
As much as music fans welcome live shows and new material, we cannot ignore the impact of both the Covid-19 pandemic and the on-going debates over streaming revenues for our favorite independent artists right now, and Joan has been a vocal advocate for the latter recently. “We are still releasing ‘Help Me Out’ on March 30th, but after every musician who performs live has had the rug yanked out from beneath us, this whole asking everyone to click pre-save on a platform that is already famously under paying the very people who provide their content felt odd to me,” Joan shared on her Facebook page. “So we have decided to pull ‘Help Me Out’ from … the biggest streaming services with clearly the largest fiscal stockpiles and the lowest payouts in favour of streaming services that make the gesture of paying out a little bit more.”
Fans of Smith will not be disappointed with this new release, in which the combination of Joan’s exceptional vocal range and band’s sound intensify beautifully to deliver the bridge and final chorus: “Silence is the only way that I’ve learned to fight / You’re programmed to destroy all, all that I want / Content to poison all we have until it rots … / Can you help me out? / Can you help me out? / I don’t wanna get back in / But I can’t find my way out.” And shortly after, the drums, bass, and distorted guitars yield to the handclaps and a momentary sense of calm. “I can’t let you back in,” Joan recites softly as the song fades to a close; offering a brief moment of vulnerability and sadness in her voice that is often unheard, and leaving me with a strong desire to hear more of the new tunes that shall hopefully follow soon.
Adding his talents to “Help Me Out” is drummer Glenn Milchem (Blue Rodeo, The Swallows), who is no stranger to Smith’s music and has been a vocal advocate for her brand of hard rock for several years now. “If there is a better new rock band in [Toronto] right now, I’ll eat my toque,” Glenn offered shortly after the release of “Normalize,” and two years later, I’m sure that Glenn’s stash of hats still survive to share the tale. “Help Me Out” offers proof once more that all hats, toques and fedoras everywhere continue to remain safe at this time.
Photo Credit: @tigerriding @tigermansionstudios
We’re all struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the livelihoods of musicians and artists are especially impacted right now. We always encourage you to buy music, but we especially encourage you to consider it now. You can buy “Help Me Out” here.