Review – “Hope is Made of Steel” – Northcote

reviewed by Eleni Armenakis1438725700740

If Northcote’s Matt Goud ever wanted to name-drop, he’d certainly have quite the list to choose from. From his early years with Christian post-hardcore band Means to his secular solo project that he’s in the process of expanding, Goud has shared the stage and presumably rubbed shoulders with some of punk rock and folk’s finest—both established and up-and-coming—likely thanks to a grueling touring schedule that has seen him crisscross his native country and extensive parts of the U.S. and Europe.

Which might be why his third release, Hope is Made of Steel, has pulled so much from that feeling of being on the road. Full of nostalgia and cities he’s always in the process of leaving behind, Goud’s voice—still crackling with his punk past—fills the room as he pours out a vulnerable mixture of melancholy and potential.

Joined by Stephen McGillivray, Mike Battle and Derek Heathfield (on guitar, bass and drums, respectively) Goud’s open about plans for a more “dynamic” sound on stage—and, judging by his latest, in studio too. The folk overlays are still the focus, but Goud’s previous career and his penchant for big sounds seeps its way into the songs, giving them an unexpected edge.

The Chuck Ragan-featuring introduction feeds into this, relying on Goud and Ragan’s vocals more so than the acoustic guitar and harmonica accompanying the forlorn voices. All that changes as Goud moves into the next track when the vocals lose some of the strain that manages to evoke so much emotion, but find a much more emphatic balance for “Bitter End.”

Everything really clicks when Hannah Georgas pops up on the eponymous fourth track, smoothing over the edges as Goud follows up on the mixed feelings “Small Town Dreams” evoked. “Leaving Wyoming” only builds from this—startling me when Goud sings, “I didn’t want to choose between mom and dad/so I’m leaving Wyoming” and soaring to a refined peak for a much more aged chorus.

But it’s the sort of moment you can expect with Hope is Made of Steel as Goud opts for the most honest route and a surprising bluntness that catches you unawares by laying bare the simplest version of the truth. It’s raw exposure from someone who’s perhaps a little more used to being exposed than most, but that may be why the plainest words work best for Goud—there’s incredible vulnerability in saying exactly what you mean.

Top tracks: “Hope is Made of Steel”; “Leaving Wyoming”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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