Review – “Northwestern” – Northwestern

reviewed by Eleni Armenakiscover

We’re now on the other side of September’s long weekend, which means it’s time to pull out the wool socks, oversized sweatshirts and mugs of tea and hole up for the winter—and while you’re at it, build up a solid supply of mellow music to keep you feeling good in the dark months ahead. Maybe that’s a tad melodramatic, but there’s something to Northwestern’s full-length debut—a folky, rocking mix—that feels perfect for hunkered down nights of listening.

The self-titled album launches the latest project from Daniel Mancini & Andrew James, formerly of London’s Handsome Dan and His Gallimaufry, and the Open House Arts Collective. This time around they’re taking to the stage with a significantly smaller group, setting aside the trio of guitarists (including a transplant to Sackville, N.B.) for the simpler sounds of Mancini on guitar and James on drums.

The pair performed all fourteen tracks on the album themselves before reuniting with The Sugar Shack’s Simon Larochette to master the final product. In keeping with their prior history as roving Handsome Dan, the pair traveled to Sauble Beach, Guelph and Hamilton to record, as well as working from home.

Those quiet spaces between places made their way onto the album. Modern folk track “No Resistance” wastes no time delving into the effect of the road and being “gone in an instant.” It’s followed by fuzzy ballad “Your Man” before seguing comfortably into Southern Ontario’s own brand of slow rock with the 60s-esque “This Ain’t Me.”

Images of youthful movie dates are contrasted with Mancini’s world-weary awareness of how fleeting those moments are. “Before Your Eyes” sees the sun setting on old memories even as they’re being made—a theme that picks up in the first few songs and grows stronger with every track until “Cut Loose” mournfully and majestically lets go.

That overwhelming awareness of moments passing by might be why Northwestern feels so much like a fall sort of album. It’s all too aware that good things come to an end too soon, and is never entirely sure if we enjoyed them enough while we had them.

Top Tracks: “This Ain’t Me”; “Cut Loose”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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