BC Camplight – How to Die in the North

How to Die in the NorthReleased on Bella Union on 19th January, BC Camplight’s new album How to Die in the North shows off clever song writing and a refreshingly playful air, but sometimes lacks a deeper, more emotive side. Arguably you could describe it as head, rather than heart, music.

The album swaggers in with the cool bass line intro to “You Should Have Gone to School”, with splashes of electric guitar, falling synth sirens and circling vocal phrases. The song switches mood slightly, taking a lighter tone, as Brian Christinzio’s falsetto vocals float into the mix. This illustrates a tension between the vocals and the orchestration around it, perhaps too commonly threaded through the songs. What could sometimes be a little deeper, more affecting, is lost slightly.

Thus, while How to Die in the North’s playfulness shines through perfectly in places, this light spirit can come at the expense of the emotional edge of the music. In fact, the darker, subtler moments of the album form a couple of highlights, including the brooding swing of “Atom Bomb”, where dancing trumpet lines and sliding electric guitar form a shimmering backdrop to his rich vocals. The gradual climb to the peak and descent to the end of the song draws the listener along a road different to that walked up until that point in the songs.

The arrangement skills on show cannot be doubted, and the songs boast a distinctive style and refuse to stick to what is safe, giving the album a nice variety of moods. On “Grim Cinema”, the slightly fun, and perhaps slightly menacing, vocal performance in the verses, balanced with the brighter choruses, forms a good example – keeping the listener guessing at times. This variety can sometimes compromise the consistency and clear identity of the musician behind it, but it should be interesting to see how BC Camplight goes on to develop his sound and writing style, perhaps in a way that will engage the listener on an deeper emotional level.

Release: 19th January 2015, Bella Union

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