Since 1995, Kevin Hearn has been playing keyboards for Barenaked Ladies, but those who aren't fans of the Canadian alt-pop band's goofy antics and silly songs shouldn't hold Hearn's regular gig against him. His solo outings have been far more serious affairs brought about, at least in part, by the tragic events of his own life. His sophomore effort H-Wing, for example, was written while he was undergoing treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia, a form of blood cancer, and the album understandably reflected his tortured emotions about the experience.
Hearn's latest outing Night Light is considerably lighter in tone, containing reflections upon past relationships with the type of honest, heartfelt introspection that even a strange, bluegrass-tinged cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs can't destroy. That's not to say that there isn't a dark undercurrent that flows through Hearn's lyrics, but much like his distant memories are filtered by the passage of time, the feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and longing that lurk within his words are made bittersweet by the gentle, sometimes lovely sway of his arrangements. In short, the music seems to embrace a sense of joyfulness at the adventure of life, offering a flicker of hope that springs from the knowledge that no matter how bad things appear to be at any given moment, they are likely to improve eventually. Although Night Light never quite reaches the pinnacle of Warren Zanes' Memory Girls, Hearn strives for the same ambitious end as he rummages through his old snapshots and keepsakes, and his simple, unfettered pop songs leave hope that one day Barenaked Ladies just might leave its quirkiness behind -- if only the group would make better use of his considerable talent.
--John Metzger, The Music Box, July 2004, Volume 11, #7