“I can’t listen to country radio,” sings Kayla Howran on “Country Radio,” the fourth song on her second and newest album, Spare Parts. But not for the reasons you might think (bro-country, lack-of-diversity country or simply not-your-type-of country) — but because “I can’t play that song anymore/ everything reminds me of you.”
Laying her heartbreak on the table, Howran sings of avoiding country radio on the very song that could fit perfectly into it — a little knowing wink from the Peterborough native who spent six years' worth of Friday nights doing a residency at Toronto’s Cameron House, playing to packed rooms and nabbing a two-year deal with the venue’s label for her 2012 debut, Pistol. On sophomore effort Spare Parts, it’s easy to tell that Howran knows what’s what.
Produced by Colin Cripps (Blue Rodeo, Kathleen Edwards) and recorded at the Tragically Hip’s Bathouse studio, Spare Parts is made up of 10 tracks that could find a home on country radio, but feel more akin to alt-country work by fellow Ontarian Lindi Ortega or Texan Kacey Musgraves. From subversive kiss-offs (“Your Next Song”) to relationship burials (“Flowers on Our Grave”) to a family never realized (“Lorelai”), Howran’s second album spans what the heart wants — and what it doesn’t get.
“You haven’t packed your bags/ but you’re going to,” Howran sings on album closer “Thanks for the Good Times,” and amidst the swell of horns, we know that she's not saying goodbye to us, but to the person who’s caused her so much pain. And good riddance — as long as Howran's here to stay.
Spare Parts will be released April 28.