Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Album Review: Kari Rueslatten - To The North

Last year, I reviewed Kari Rueslatten's return to the music scene, which was a record that I had no idea what to expect from. That album was a somber acoustic record,one with just enough pop tinge to make it an odd fit for any particular scene. It wasn't pop, it wasn't rock, and it didn't feel like a singer-songwriter record either. Whatever problems there might have been in classifying the music, it was an album that I found myself enjoying more than I would have thought. It wasn't like anything else I listened to last year, which is actually a point in its favor.

Since then, I will admit that I haven't listened to the record in quite a while. As more and more new things have come out, it just didn't grab me enough to stand out amidst the flurry of releases. But now, a year later, Kari is back with another new album, one that promises to be a bit darker.

"To The North" is inspired by the landscapes of her native land, which is something that I will have to reserve judgment on to those who have experienced them. I can only comment on the music itself. Opening with "Battle Forevermore", the atmosphere is set early on. With soft sounds, and a lilting pace, Kari's music is a reflection of the darker, more somber side of the coin. The song takes a while to get going, but the second half picks up the energy just enough to feel alive, and the harmonized vocals buttress the melody beautifully. It's a song that you can't say is peppy, or engaging, but it's beauty shines through.

"Mary's Song" has more of a jazz feeling, in the way that Norah Jones early records were classified as such. It reminds me a great deal of that style, as Kari uses her voice to inflect every note of the song. The hook is subtle, but it's there if you're paying attention. It's a slow-burn of a song that could have used a bit more of a payoff at the end, but there is something calm about the track that makes it satisfying nonetheless.

Kari's classical training shines through on "What We Have Lost", the judgment of which will depend on your love of that style of singing. The song itself has a stronger melody than the first two, and has a more electric edge. But the vocals are what define the song, and I will admit that the couple of strongest classical flourishes are not my preferred style. The song is good, and Kari is clearly a talented singer, but I would have enjoyed a more straight-forward vocal myself.

Being so subdued, these songs have to be exceedingly sharp to pay off, and the writing isn't always up to the task. "Dance With The King" is fabulous, but "Three Roses In My Hands" is a folk song that just doesn't have enough of a melody to it. It's hard to pick out anything memorable in the song that is going to stay with you afterwards.

"To The North" is the kind of album that is perfect for putting on when you want to turn off the lights and relax. The atmosphere of the record is calm, warm, and will whisk you away to soft and inviting place. Like her previous album, however, it's a record that is more memorable for the sound and tone than the actual songs. That's not saying that there aren't good songs here, or that the record isn't enjoyable. For its purpose, "To The North" hits the mark far more often than it misses. I'm just not sure how often I'm going to want to pull this particular arrow out of my quiver.

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