click here for more
Album Review
Newfoundland

Newfoundland
by Great North

Rating

Review Date
19th November 2010
Reviewed by
Courtney Sanders

Alt Country is underpinned by sentimentality and emotive response, which, ultimately comes from the audience engaging with the lyrical countenance and front person on any given track – an X Factor, so-to-speak. It’s the formula behind the most eloquent contemporary expressions of such sound. Will Sheff of Okkervil River or Conor Oberst for example, combine worthsmithing lyrical approach with emotional, honest delivery and create a high brow representation of the most gut-wrenching human emotions and events. And while Great North as a young, new band, don’t quite possess the uniqueness of the aforementioned - this debut release is an eloquent sign of things to come.

Hayden Donnell’s voice is the most charmed when it is slightly strained sitting atop rollicking, upbeat melodic guitar parts, striking that fine balance between melancholy and optimism. Track two, ‘Sailors’, is a perfect example of this, all swashbuckling pop melody underpinned by a fairly sentimental theme. Preceeded by ‘News’ a straight up alt-country ‘hit’ and followed by the balladry of ‘Newfoundland’ – which features female vocalist Rachel Harrisons lovely voice curling around Donnell’s - this triptych at the beginning of the album is a fine display of their grasp of the subtleties of their chosen genre. The most impressive track like this, however, is ‘Night’, all historically referential (“swing low sweet chariot”) through the vocal with a juxtaposition of safe, melodic verse and huge, aggressive breakdowns, suggestive of the melancholy the entirety of the album is overwrought by.

While Newfoundland as an album is thematically solid, it is almost so much so that it feels monotonous – track in and track out of twangy sadness. On the flip side, perhaps it is better to release a debut album that solidifies one’s sound and artistic direction than attempt too many things at once and end up as a divided and inaccessible package. Moving forward it is going to be interesting to see whether they experiment and can therefore diversify enough to carve a unique niche within this fairly derivative genre – a crucial accomplishment for any band cut from this cloth.

The future aside, if Great North’s Newfoundland were to be perceived as an overall package it would be an intelligent first album from emotively charged and musically versed individuals. One imagines it translates live rather beautifully too.


Links
greatnorthband.com




Comments
see more