When k.d. lang calls Sing It Loud her best album, it definitely doesn't come across as a hollow boast.
"Because I'm 50 now, I think I have some perspective and some honesty with myself," says lang of this first recording with her new Siss Boom Bang band. "The fact that we managed to create an album that is fun, soulful and honest — those are not easy things to do. Especially after 28 years in the business."
After her 2008 Watershed album, lang sensed she was ready to change things up. A key figure in the transition was Guster producer/musician Joe Pisapia, whom she first connected with while touring Watershed. When they later got together to write, the chemistry was immediate.
"There's a freedom to Joe," explains lang. "I think Joe is one of those kinds of guys that either makes you feel uncomfortable because you can't access your inner child yourself, or you have an immediate bond because you can. It was like you couldn't do anything wrong, no judgment. It was just two kids in an infinite sandbox, just playing around."
When it came time to book the first recording session, lang had two musicians from her previous band, guitarist Josh Grange and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Clarke, that she felt were right for the new material.
Pisapia brought in bassist Lex Price, and Clarke recommended drummer Fred Eltringham of the Wallflowers to round out what became the Siss Boom Bang band. Once again, lang had that special feeling.
"The second everyone walked into the studio, I just knew. I just knew, I knew, I knew," lang says. "I could feel it. It felt magical. There was mutual respect. There was energy. There was positivity. It was just so exciting and so amazingly perfect."
Sing It Loud has familiar elements from the past, but also feels very new as lang assimilates and mixes disparate musical elements. "I Confess" starts off quietly, echoing the torch song style of her best-known album, Ingénue. But then the band kicks in with a dramatic arrangement that falls somewhere between rock and orchestral country. "The Water's Edge" has a richly layered, gently insistent chiming sound, while "Perfect Word" skirts the boundaries of atmospheric pop and country. And "Sugar Buzz" suggests a vaguely twangier Beatles, as lang takes the song to several chill-inducing crescendos.
Of course, lang is no stranger to self-reinvention. Hailing from Alberta, Canada, she emerged in the '80s with critically acclaimed, feisty, countrified albums like A Truly Western Experience and Angel With a Lariat. By 1992's Ingénue, she'd moved more into pop/torch song territory, reaching her commercial peak with the hit song "Constant Craving." A decade later, she'd drifted toward a more classic crooning style, pairing with Tony Bennett for 2003's A Wonderful World.
The songstress likes the fact she continues to defy easy categorization.
"I do think it's a new chapter, and I think it's something I've been trying to get to for awhile," she says. "There's not really a genre to this record. It's kind of more soulful, more playful. I would say this is pretty close to my actual personality."