Sometimes an artist takes a small step as he or she moves on from one recording to the next. Other times, artists like Corinna Rose take giant leaps. Less than two years after her self-titled EP came into the world, Northeast Southwest is here. It features a much fuller sound, but more importantly that fuller sound is tightly controlled, adding plenty of surprise to each of the album’s eight tracks.
The title seems to have several meanings, depending on how you look at it. The title can be taken at is most literal level to mean the places one can physically travel. But in the context of the album, it seems to apply to the ways in which a person can be figuratively lost or on the right path. A few song titles reference darkness and light, still more figurative directions one can go, and the opening song, “Lost Like You,” drives home early the album’s theme.
Speaking of the album opener, what an absolutely gorgeous track it is. The song is in a constant state of fluidity, gradually adding and sometimes removing instruments to thrilling effect. It leaves the listener in a constant state of suspense, hinting several times at a bigger ending and then artfully bringing in that big sound to bring the song to a close. Rose’s vocals are wonderfully breathy in this first track as she sings “Are we hopeless?”
“There is Darkness, There is Light” takes what could be a stale concept and transforms it into a song with two distinct halves. The first bit is slower and melodic, featuring little more than Rose’s voice and some acoustic guitar picking, with hints of strings flourished here and there. The strings become sweeping later on for a big finish to what could have been a quiet song.
Later on in the album, “Your Light” accomplishes what “There is Darkness” does with even more aplomb. It starts again with vocals and acoustic guitar, soon bringing in banjo and beginning with what sounds like optimistic lyrics. As the song progresses, the song takes an unexpected left turn as the song brings in louder instruments and handclaps, and suddenly pessimistic lyrics like “You are sinking.”
Not every song starts slow and builds, though. “Northeast Southwest” and “So It Goes” are both refreshing in their upbeat sound right from the get-go. The latter in particular takes on a bluegrass feel not heard anywhere else on the album, and features some good repetition that might leave the song stuck in listener’s head. Then there’s also “Darcy (D.)” which quickly builds itself out rather than draw out the increase in volume, similar to something Dan Mangan might have come up with on Oh Fortune.
Eight songs may not seem like much, but Corinna Rose makes each and every song count for a truly stunning album. Pre-order the album, which officially releases April 11, from Bandcamp now.
Top Tracks: “Lost Like You”; “Your Light”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*