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Music / Joel Plaskett

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William Joel MacDonald Plaskett (born April 18, 1975) is a rock musician from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Originally from Lunenburg, on the province's South Shore, Joel has lived in the Halifax Regional Municipality (which includes Dartmouth) since he was 12. He formed his first band, Thrush Hermit, in 1992 at age 17. After the band broke up in 1999 (and a brief stint in another band called Neuseiland), Joel began a solo career, and founded a new band called the Joel Plaskett Emergency in 2001.


Currently, Joel performs and releases music both as a solo artist and with the Emergency. In general, his work with the Emergency tends to skew more toward energetic party-rock, while his solo work has more of a singer-songwriter feel. (There are, of course, exceptions.) In all cases, his music is very highly influenced by his Nova Scotia upbringing. Joel frequently goes as far as including specific names and places in his lyrics as a bonus for Maritime listeners. As of 2017, he has released two albums with Thrush Hermit, one album with Neuseiland, four albums with the Emergency, and five albums as a solo artist. He has also released numerous EPs and singles.

Joel is one of the most successful and most widely acclaimed artists on the Canadian indie music scene. As of 2013, he has won 22 East Coast Music Awards and a Juno.


Album Discography:

With Thrush Hermit:

  • Sweet Homewrecker (1997)
  • Clayton Park (1999)

With Neuseiland:

  • Neuseiland (2000)

With Joel Plaskett Emergency:

  • Down at the Khyber (2001)
  • Truthfully, Truthfully (2003)
  • Ashtray Rock (2007)
  • Scrappy Happiness (2012)

As a solo artist:

  • In Need of Medical Attention (1999)
  • La De Da (2005)
  • Three (2009)
  • The Park Avenue Sobriety Test (2015)
  • Solidarity (2017) (collaboration with his father, Bill Plaskett)


Joel Plaskett and his associated bands provide examples of:

  • Arc Number: Three, Joel's third album of new material as a solo artist, is a triple album with nine (3x3) songs on each disc, 14 of which have titles consisting of a word or phrase repeated three times. The number three also appears in the lyrics frequently, and the cover art features Joel holding up three fingers in front of a pattern repeated six times. The first two discs are even 33 minutes long each (the third is 37). It was also released when Joel himself was 33.
    • The album was followed by an EP called Three More, which included another song with a thrice-repeated title and brought the total number of songs released under the Three project to 30.
    • 11 years later, at the age of 44, Joel released a spiritual sequel to Three called 44. It was a quadruple album, again with 11 songs on each disc (numbered 41, 42, 43, and 44).
  • Album Title Drop:
    • In "The Red Light": "Truthfully, truthfully / I don’t understand / Why the red light’s turning on again"
    • In "Natural Disaster": "La de da de da de die / Batten down the hatches, Becky"
    • There are at least four Title Drops on Three:
      • "Through & Through & Through": "(It's only you and me) / Oh, but good things come in three"
      • "Precious, Precious, Precious": "What am I thinking? I’ll give you three guesses"
      • "Deny, Deny, Deny": "When it's only me and you / Why's everything gotta break in three?"
      • "Deny, Deny, Deny" again: "One: You were the lonely / Two: You were my only / Three: You went and left this place"
      • The opening track, "Every Time You Leave", has a fifth Title Drop that may have been unintentional (but would come chronologically first if included): "Table seats four and a couch seats three"
    • In "Lightning Bolt": "This is our only chance / For certain happenstance / Some scrappy happiness".
  • Audience Participation Song: "The Park Avenue Sobriety Test", which began appearing in live setlists in 2013.
  • Brick Joke: On Ashtray Rock, in "Penny for Your Thoughts", the singer repeatedly states that "the reason I like the instrumentals is 'cause they haven't got any words". Five tracks and over 20 minutes later, the singer's love interest begins narrating a letter in the middle of a track called "The Instrumental".
  • Curse Cut Short: The second line of "Nothing More to Say".
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The cover of Scrappy Happiness features a toy monkey, dressed as Joel and holding a guitar. Many live performances since then have seen electronic versions of the monkey toy jamming on stage with the band.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Ordering Pizza from Goddard's", a 13-second audio clip included in the Thrush Hermit: The Complete Recordings box set.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The name of The Park Avenue Sobriety Test is stylized on the album cover as Joel Plaskett & the Park Avenue Sobriety Test. On the spine of the CD edition, the album's title is rendered as Joel Plaskett & the P.A.S.T.
  • High School: The backdrop for Ashtray Rock.
  • Home Sweet Home: The three discs of Three respectively have general themes of leaving, being away, and coming home again.
  • I Love This Town: "Love This Town", appropriately enough, which closes La De Da. It's an ode to Halifax (and simultaneously a Take That! to Kelowna, British Columbia).
  • Leitmotif: Ashtray Rock has several reoccurring riffs and melodies that serve this purpose. Most notably, a modified version of the main riff from "Snowed In", which represents the climax of the singer's relationship with his love interest, is used to open "Nothing More to Say", in which the already tenuous relationship has completely fallen apart.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Joel's father, Bill Plaskett, was instrumental in Joel's development as a musician. Joel returned the favour by writing and recording the album Solidarity with him in 2017.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The Thrush Hermit: The Complete Recordings box set. Six CDs and two DVDs encompassing just about every "official" recording ever made of Thrush Hermit. It even includes tracks like "Can I Wait for Pizza?", a 28-second clip of one of the band members asking his mom when pizza will be ready.
  • List Song: The first half of "Penny for Your Thoughts" is predominantly a list of things the singer likes, particularly music genres.
  • Local Hangout: Ashtray Rock is named for one of these: a literal rock in the Halifax neighbourhood of Clayton Park where teenagers go to drink alcohol.
  • Long Title: Joel's 2009 collection of miscellaneous B-sides, demos, and outtakes is called EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations.
  • National Anthem: "True Patriot Love" uses lines from the Canadian and American anthems to symbolize themes in the lyrics.
  • Reference Overdosed: "North Star" contains Shout-Outs to, in order, Cactus, Zildjian cymbals, Spider-Man, Bacardi rum, Marillion, and Neil Young.
  • Rhyming with Itself: In "Fashionable People": "I bet their parents are ridiculously loaded / Let's get moving before I'm loaded".
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Right in the middle of a 41-day strike by Metro Transit operators in the Halifax Regional Municipality in 2012, the Joel Plaskett Emergency released a short song called "Transit Strike". The attached cover art was even a modification of the Metro Transit logo.
  • Rock Opera: Ashtray Rock.
  • Scatting: The backing vocals in "Penny for Your Thoughts". Justified by the fact that the singer mentions liking doo-wop in the first line.
  • Shout-Out: Many.
    • References to people and places in Nova Scotia abound in Joel's work. His record label, New Scotland Records, is also named after the province ("Nova Scotia" is "New Scotland" in Latin).
    • Subverted at the beginning of "Nothing More to Say". The song begins with the opening line from "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas, before giving way to a Curse Cut Short.
  • Something Blues: "New Scotland Blues".
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: In "Through & Through & Through": "Don't you say that I'm out of my [two quick notes from a brass instrument] mind". The word is, however, spelled out in the lyrics on Joel's website.
  • Take That!: In the middle of his ode to Halifax, "Love This Town", Joel goes out of his way to say how much he did not enjoy playing a concert in Kelowna, British Columbia. (The stanza has become somewhat awkward since Joel married a woman from Kelowna.)
  • Take This Job and Shove It: The climax of "Lying on a Beach", inspired by a negative experience Joel had working as a digital record keeper.
  • Talks Like a Simile: Frequently seen in Joel's work.
  • There's No Place Like Home: A major theme on Three and elsewhere.
  • This Is Your Song: "Chinatown/For the Record": "This one's for the record / And the record's for you". Notably, the subject of the song is the singer's ex; the singer is apologizing as a way of seeking closure.
  • Title Track: "In Need of Medical Attention", "Down at the Khyber", "Ashtray Rock", and "The Park Avenue Sobriety Test". The non-album track "Make a Little Noise" also counts for its EP.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: In "Penny for Your Thoughts": "I like seeing Johnny's dad wearing Johnny's mother's clothes".
  • Word Purée Title: La De Da.

Alternative Title(s): Thrush Hermit


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