reviewed by Laura Stanley
Her Harbour’s new record Winter’s Ghost is an emotional powerhouse. Each of the nine songs drip with the passionate wail of Her Harbour front woman Gabrielle Giguere, diving into topics of loss, family, abuse, and addictions, all in a must hear, heavy folky style of music.
Recorded in Giguere’s childhood home in Ottawa, and even using various music-making objects around the house, there’s a closeness and personal aspect to the record that has allowed the previously mentioned topics to be explored in a safe space and as a result, each songs has a complex depth.
Thanks to Guiguere’s voice being paired with an instrumental sparseness in the opener “This Age,” you are jolted into Winter’s Ghost. Receiving the full-breadth of Guiguere’s beautiful voice in under three minutes, the hushed instrumental soundscape is similar to that of the rest of the album, leaving space for the vocals to be the main focus. As a sucker for clarinets, “This Age’s” clarinet addition highlights the instrumental aspect of the song.
Though a large part of Winter’s Ghost has a darkness about it, a few songs in particular have a certain gloominess that’s hard to overlook, created both by the instrumental landscape, the aforementioned singing from Giguere, a mixture between the gothic sounds of Sharon Van Etten and Cold Specks, and the lyrics themselves.
Marking the first of the particularly dark numbers, Giguere tragically sings, “Ashes to ashes/and dust to dust/schizophrenia/has taken us” in “Deloria.” Like this line in “Deloria,” throughout Winter’s Ghost Giguere captures small heartbreaking moments with slight turns of phrase adding to the heightened sense of emotions. In the haunting and creepy sounding “Your Bibles,” she sings, “I hear she’s married to her books/She swears they bury her so thoughtfully,” for another example of the poignant aspects of Winter’s Ghost.
“Petunia” is one of the record’s most accessible and loveable tracks. Beginning with a simple piano and vocal combination, “Petunia” swells into a complex and creative soundscape, including the use of: howling tubes, crystal glasses, singing bowl, antique clocks, and a bucket of nails for a very lush feeling.
The following number, “Green Bellows” similarly captures a DIY orchestral sound but it’s the phrasing of the lyrics that captures you. In an intense presentation of lyrics, Giguere switches between practically speaking, to delicate singing for an almost erotic result – of course the repetition of “two naked bodies” helps with that picture as well.
Finally, “My Last Map” is able to close the record on a very organic note. Back to the piano and vocal combo, it’s in the final moments of the song, and thus the album, where the sound of birds take over, ushering out the “winter’s ghost” and perhaps welcoming both a change of seasons but also a personal change.
In a stunning and soul pouring record from Her Harbour, Winter’s Ghost is a welcoming and unique narrative.
Winter’s Ghost is available on Bandcamp.
Top Tracks: “Petunia,” “Green Bellows,” “My Last Map”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*