Singer-songwriter CARMEN BRADEN captures pandemic containment with a ‘menu’


Study after study, women have endured the brunt of the stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and Canadian singer-songwriter Carmen Braden’s new single “Menu” – available now – captures the sentiment.

Viscerally, moreover.

Every man, woman and child in their arms wants a piece of me
Like I’m the only bird in a house full of foxes,
tit titmouse

“Menu” is sparse and industrial, with a dark synth and artfully rambling rhythms. Braden talks-sings throughout; his voice, in fact.

“Scramble for the door / lock it, lock me up,” she sings quietly. And that’s what so many of us have had to do, in one way or another, over the past year: take a deep breath and endure family confinement without saying hello, even if the possibility is well and truly there.

“You cut me up like a menu” is the chorus of the song, and from the start it gives us an image of meat falling off the bone. “’Menu’ brings to the fore the idea that someone’s whole being is tied to the needs of another,” Braden said. “I would say this is the routine of everyday life. The demands on your physical body, and on your energy, on your time.

Plus, producer Mark Adam helped shape the song to be, in Carmen’s words, “dark and gritty, with a shimmer around the edges.”

The song wavers at times and floats at others, reflecting the emotions and the ebb and flow of demands for a day without defined boundaries. “An internal monologue from someone trying to keep things calm and under control,” Braden says, “when in reality they are teetering on the edge.”

“Menu” is the second single from Braden’s third album, Seed Songs. “Every song has a core – a ‘starting idea’ – that I tried to capture,” says Braden. “They are each a sort of vignette: a moment in time; a snapshot of joy or struggle, fragments; sentences; edges …

“During the last fall and winter of the pandemic, the minutiae and small details of everyday life were at the center of my concerns. I’ve written dozens of these short “seed song” ideas – all related to beauty moments I’ve encountered or everyday struggles. I have tried to share things that may seem ordinary or simple at first glance, but are actually deep, enriching and nuanced. “

The making of the album, of course, also faced restrictions due to COVID. Braden has worked on writing and recording Seed Songs remotely from her home in Yellowknife with producer Mark Adam in Nova Scotia. There was a silver lining. “By working this way, I brought the music to life with Mark in a way that I had never done before,” she says. “Mark encouraged me to embrace the rough without sacrificing the concise. I also used instruments and technologies that were new to me: guitars, synthesizers. It brought a process of freedom and exploration to the recording process.

Braden is familiar with the exploration process. His debut album Ravens was released in 2017, combining his songs and compositions, and his second album, Songs of the Invisible Summer Stars, followed two years later by a deep dive into his contemporary works for chamber ensemble.

Among his many accolades, Braden won the Western Canadian Music Award for Classical Composer of the Year in 2019 and 2020, and received nominations for Classical Album of the Year ECMA (2020), the classical artist of the year WCMA (2019) and WCMA. Classic Composition of the Year (2017).

Seed Songs, Carmen Braden’s third album, is slated for release in fall 2021.

“Menu” is available now.

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