Albums that show glimmers of hope amongst low lows can be more frustrating than those that are just dreck. Such is the case with Great Northern’s debut, Trading Twilight for Daylight.
Its main problem is that it’s over-orchestrated. Which isn’t surprising, because band leader Solon Bixler’s father was a composer and conductor. “Just a Dream” sounds like it would fit into a key emotional scene in a horrible Adam Brody film. Other elements added to the syrupy strings don’t always help. “Low Is a Height” tries to spice things up using the type of electronics that haven’t been edgy in rock since the Pumpkins’ Adore.
Elsewhere, when the members of Great Northern aren’t trying too hard, they’re not trying at all. “City of Sleep” is all empty spooky sadness. “Babies,” recalling Sparklehorse’s “Little Fat Baby” in more than just name, is pretty enough, but the song’s lyrics seem to be telling a story that just dead-ends. Sample: “You were a doctor of medicine/ She was a nurse with no direction/ We are all babies.” Huh?
But, oh, for those highlights. Anybody raised by parents who loved Carol King and Carly Simon is going to be taken aback by “Our Bleeding Hearts” (Bixler shares vocal duties on the album with pianist Rachel Stolter, who has a much better voice). The song is a perfect mix of high piano chords, chiming xylophone, hazy guitar smears, and swelling strings. And in the future, Great Northern should throw us more choruses like those on “Home” and “Telling Lies,” which are hard to forget.