Good things come in threes

I normally prefer albums that are short and sweet, but in the case of Joel Plaskett‘s Three, I can’t help but admire its sheer scale. It’s a triple album, with each disc comprised of nine songs, making for close to two hours of music. Song titles include “Pine, Pine, Pine,” “Heartless, Heartless, Heartless,” and “On & On & On.” “Good things come in threes,” Plaskett sings on “Through & Through & Through”—no kidding. His fixation on the number three is the kind of obsessive compulsion usually reserved for the genius or the insane. Thankfully, Plaskett is closer to the former.

The most remarkable thing about Three is that of the 27 tracks, none of them suck. (Okay, the comically deep vocals on “Drifter’s Raus” aren’t great, but the song itself holds up.) The album doesn’t have much in the way of curveballs, but what Plaskett lacks in adventurousness, he makes up for in consistency. The majority of the songs on Three vary between rootsy, countrified folk and electro-tinged rockabilly, full of call-and-response harmonies and bluegrass accompaniment (including pedal steel, fiddles, and the occasional banjo). Only “Rewind, Rewind, Rewind” offers much in the way of a stylistic counterpoint, with a tick-tocking beat and retro girl group vocals.

With double and triple albums, people are wont to speculate what songs would have made the cut had the album been cut down to a single disc. But here, that debate is irrelevant, since every song makes the album stronger by its inclusion. It’s an insular album, full of self-refences and recurring themes. As well as repeated musical ideas, the same lyrics keep popping up in multiple songs: “rewind,” “beyond,” and (of course) “three.” There isn’t much of a stylistic distance between any of the three discs—the second is little mellower, perhaps. For the most part, the songs could have been placed in almost any order and the effect would have been the same; this makes Three the kind of album you can get lost in, allowing the songs to wash over you without the need for a linear structure. This is also handy because it means you don’t have to listen to the entire thing in one go to get the full effect. (Because how often can you really devote two hours to listening to one album?)

There is a slight tendency on Three for the songs to blend into one another—no wonder, since 27 songs is a lot to digest at once. But standouts begin to emerge on repeated listens. The best of the bunch is buried way back in the third disc, the stomping hoedown “Deny, Deny, Deny.” With gorgeous female harmonies and a chorus melody that could have been borrowed from a nursery rhyme, it sounds a rootsy take on 60s AM pop.

Three is out now via MapleMusic.
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