Sarah MacDougall is more than just a generic singer-songwriter and, in all its simplicity, her latest release gestures towards big ideas. Grand Canyon takes listeners on a journey across a range of landscapes as MacDougall draws on life experiences in her homeland of Sweden, and her adopted home in Canada.
The album begins in Sweden with the first single, “I Want To See The Light (Lost from our eyes)”. MacDougall pulls inspiration from a string of anti-immigrant shootings in 2010 in her hometown, Malmö. The song’s twisting melody and whisper-y vocals creates an uneasy, haunting atmosphere.
Grand Canyon pays homage to her hometown once again in “Malmö I Mitt Hjärta”. The song rises from stark beginnings into a swelling cinematic experience. The sweeping strings arrangement is courtesy of two of Canada’s finest: Jesse Zubot (Tanya Tagaq) and Matthew Rogers (The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer). The song weaves echoing vocals and textured instrumentals for a multi-dimensional, layered listen.
In “Sparrowhead” we see the setting shift across the sea to Canada. MacDougall references Vancouver and Winnipeg and closes out the song with repeating the word “Manitoba”. Beyond the emotional geography, MacDougall hits the right notes in other places. Title track “Grand Canyon” and “The Story of Pippi and Lionheart” showcase her ability to deliver on charming indie pop, while “Devil’s Gap” is a heady slow-mover.
Grand Canyon is a refreshing addition to Canada’s singer-songwriter genre, but it’s also so much more. The album is filled with Sarah MacDougall doing what she does best: taking indie-pop expectations and shooting them full of fresh turns and honest lyrics.
Top Tracks: “Malmö I Mitt Hjärta”, “Grand Canyon”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really good)