Veteran Canadian singer-songwriter Emm Gryner takes special care to point out in Asian Blue
's liner notes that the record was "in no way financially supported by a corporation, major record label or government agency." This distinction is necessary, because the record is so close a facsimile to just-add-marketing pop (think Sheryl Crow or April Lavigne) that you will definitely suspect a songwriting team, AOL Time Warner or the NSA to have played a hand in its creation. The distinction might also point to deep dissatisfaction with Mercury, which released Gryner's 1998 effort, Public
Despite her expressed independence, Gryner falls prey to many of the foibles of mass-marketed pop. Lyrics are frought with hollow palliatives like "times, they've changed, what do you do in this day and age?" "Free" sounds like Scotch-taped-together musings taken from the back pages of a high schooler's spiral notebook.
That said, Wally (Belly, Superchunk, Eels) Gagel's deluxe production packs the record with enough strings and drum machines and synths to keep it moving along nicely. For example, the boxy-beated bridge in "Northern Holiday" is one of the album's most rocking parts. Even so, the most compelling cuts are those that build on the foundation of Gryner's voice and an acoustic guitar (such as "Northern Holiday"), as Gagel's dressing occasionally overwhelms the compositions. Still, if Asian Blue is any indication, it would seem Gryner is still due some time soaking up the major label sun.