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Scenic Route to Alaska
Time for Yourself
4 out of five
Album No. 6 from Edmonton power poptarts Scenic Route to Alaska confidently delivers exactly what we need right now: solid, singable statements of solidarity and hope in (for once) not hyperbolically (but actually) objectively uneasy times.
This album does exactly what the Beatles, U2 and especially the Jayhawks do so well and make look so easy: bring out the familiar feels in a way that, thanks to the thread of lyrical universality, makes the songs seem like they’re all about you in a way that throws both AM radio rock and college indie awkwardness into the Brundlefly fusion blender.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, New Pornographers, Ladyhawk) in his Hive Creative Labs on Vancouver Island, where the band actually all moved into together during the earlier pandemic. And here it was they communally built a really cool LEGO spaceship of an album together using pieces that didn’t clash, even though the sounds range from electro to Byrds-ish county.
The big and harmonized and echoed-up choruses read like reminders from a self-help app: “you gotta take time for your self,” “call your friends and tell them how much they mean,” and “we need to find a better way” as just three examples.
I love the campfire-chorus singalong qualities of Openhearted, but it’s Polarized where the album gets both mood uneasy yet musically totally sure-footed, talking about the thing we all talk about all the time these days.
“When did everything get lost? Will it always be this way?” sings Trevor Mann beautifully, propped up by steady drummer drummer Shea Connor and energetic bass player Murray Wood. It’s actually when the songs feel spacey and nervous, like on the following song Dead of Winter, that the band best captured and converts that early COVID-19 feeling and turns it into something of a nice yard fire feeling. That’s two fires mentioned so far, but what I’m really talking about warmth, which turns into serious rock and roll heat on the title track.
Photo by supplied
The aforementioned Call Your Friends feels the most like Edmonton, hints of that Bad Buddy sort of Twizzler guitar, a loosely nêhiyawak chorus and reverb — and I quite love that the city has a sound: this is a great and (by outsiders) underestimated ecosystem. But we know better and always have.
To circle back to — why not — the fire, it’s kind of funny how personal this album of muscular power pop feels so intimate … but honestly that makes sense given the circumstance when the idea of a crowd of people with their arms around each other singing about being together makes me want to duck behind Plexiglas.
Give it a spin and you’ll see what I mean. The clue’s right there in the album title: this one’s for you.