Review: Great Northern – Remind Me Where The Light Is (2009)

Great Northern (Photo: Magnum PR)

Great Northern - Remind Me Where The Light IsThe title of Los Angeles-based indie duo Great Northern‘s sophomore album can mean a few things.

Remind Me Where The Light Is could mean the product of previous non-stop touring in support of the band’s debut LP Trading Twilight for Daylight (2007) or the title could mean the next step in the band’s hopeful musical evolution.

Who knows?

Well, that’s not true. Solon Bixler (vocals/guitar) and Rachel Stolte (vocals/keyboard) know. As the two main and only members of Great Northern, they stressed expanding and experimenting with their sound on the recent LP. “We took a lot more risks by entering uncomfortable territory that wasn’t touched on the last record,” Bixler explains. “We dug deeper into the unpleasant, which helped us find the beauty” (press release).

The unpleasantness may in part be concern or at least some form of anxiety. Starting with the opener “Story” there is an overall arching sense of immediacy in the melodies. The raw beats, whether they’d be minimal drumbeats or unfussy guitar riffs, play an important role in launching the perceived urgency in Bixler and Stolte’s vocals. The result is a sometimes lush, sometimes not-so-lush electro anthem on seemingly every track of the entire album.

If that were the true case, it would either feel restless or get boring very quickly. However, it’s not the case, and Remind Me Where The Light Is winds up being plain inconsistent due to the back-and-forth nature of juxtaposed tracks from very dazed (“New Tricks”) to pseudo-New Age (“Mountain”) and back to anthemic (“Warning”) without the slightest hesitation.

There are instances where the anthem-driven melodies work well. “Fingers” wraps all of its emotions in a whirlwind-like excitement, while the incredible “Driveway” showcases how truly grand the band could be if it sounded less forceful and focused more on blissful atmosphere (“Stop” is another example) instead of what reverberates as manufactured reactions to life’s randomness.

I could probably attempt to make a lame quip about the band’s music not being true to the band’s name (hint: it probably would have to do with the word ‘great’). But I wouldn’t do that since Great Northern’s ambitions are recognizable and present. Unfortunately, it takes a few hits on of the repeat button to hear it.

NOTE: Updated.

[photo via Magnum PR]
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Track list

    1. Story
    2. Houses
    3. Fingers
    4. Snakes
    5. Stop
    6. New Tricks
    7. Mountain
    8. Warning
    9. Driveway
    10. Numbers
    11. 33

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