The night was going well until the dog disappeared.
Outside, the first blizzard of the year rages, but Jenn Grant's kitchen is warm. The house used to be a crack den until Daniel Ledwell, Grant's fiance---and producer of her new album, Honeymoon Punch---bought it. After a year of renovations, the place is pretty and snug. Grant puts it more simply: "We had to get the crack out!" she says.
She sets a carafe of wine on the table. The new Frederick Squire album record plays in the background, and then she puts on Beach House. The phone rings, but Grant waves it off. "It's not important," she says.
After the 10th ring, she picks it up. Her voice rises with a terrible urgency. "What? What do you mean, he's gone?"
She returned to the kitchen, looking stricken. "My dog's lost," she says.
It turns out Grant's mom---who shares her dog, Charlie---had tied him up on Agricola Street while she chatted with a friend. When she looked back, he was gone. Grant begins searching for the number of the SPCA on her laptop, her eyes wet with tears.
Then the phone rings again.
Grant answers it and races to the front door. A man stands in the doorway, holding the scruff of the soaked terrier's neck. He found Charlie wandering around the bottle depot and saw the phone number and name on his collar. He'd even started asking people where Jenn Grant lived.
"Everyone knows you, but no one's related to you!" he says. It is both a weird and entirely perfect thing to say.
Grant throws her arms around him. "I love you," she says.
The evening's drama is more or less over now. Charlie snores on the couch and the carafe of wine is drained. These days, all signs would point to Jenn Grant's life being generally drama-free---she's got a dog; she's got a house; she's getting married. The heartbroken siren of Echoes is no more, the critics say. Honeymoon Punch is pure bliss.
Still, the month of December was not without its trials. Before the holidays, Grant fell down a flight of stairs and put her hand through a window, slicing tendons in her wrist. She spent the holidays recovering from surgery. The cast was removed in time for the "Getcha Good" video because it was too bulky beneath her mitten, but she still can't play guitar. A thick scar snakes down her wrist.
Then, on New Year's Eve, Grant learned that her longtime violinist, roommate and "go-to gal" Kinley Dowling was offered a contract to play with Hey Rosetta! full time. (Share's Andrew Sisk will be taking her place.) Grant is happy and proud of Dowling, but admits she is mourning the departure.
"When you have a friend you can play music with and make that your business, it's the best feeling ever," she says. "If it wasn't going well [at a show], we would look at each other and just know. It felt like we were in grade eight, that's what we would say. She has a lot to do with the album---a lot to do with my joie de vivre."
Changes and tumult aside, Honeymoon Punch is certainly a happy production. In typically Jenn Grant fashion, the album's video EPK shows all the album's talented players---Ledwell, Dowling, Sean MacGillivray, David Christensen and Mike Belyea--- at a lakeside cabin during a seemingly endless string of sunny days, making music and having a time. This is how albums should be made.
But there's also sophistication in these songs, and a sense of assurance. The song "How I Met You"---described by Grant as "a dark twisted story I made up"---has a romantic, faintly grind-y edge that's reminiscent of Cat Power going electric on You Are Free, while "All Year" has an austere poppiness that feels Pitchfork-ready.
You can hear bits of the Jenn Grant who lost her dog this evening in the kitchen--- emotive, charming, generous, but also the type of woman who will pause an interview to sternly admonish a flickering lamp: "Stop that---we have company!"
It feels real. Like her.
Grant says that with her last album Echoes, "My heart was smashed. I love it, but it was therapeutic, it was something I had to do. I didn't feel like I found my ground until we did this record. I knew the sound I wanted. I knew I wanted Danny to produce, because he knows me better than other people do. I want to make something that was not expected for me and not the easiest thing for me.
"I want to feel like me, and not another version of me," Grant says. "And I finally got who I wanted behind me, backing me up."
Alison Lang is the Scene and Heard columnist for The Coast.
Jenn Grant w/Ivan & Alyosha, Saturday, January 29, 8pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium 6101 University Avenue, $26, 494-3820,