reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
There is a current trend towards alt-rock that celebrates shouting, shredding, and grinding in an exuberant display of the joy of creation — but still retaining a rock’n’roll bite. Dagan Harding partakes in this effect: vocals that bend into a celebratory shout, buzzing guitar lines that drive the melody, and even a dash of strings for depth. Always one for lively tracks, Dagan Harding and his band (which is made up of members from Surf Dads, Blue Youth, and the Regina Symphony Orchestra) are back for the first time in three and a half years with I Learned How.
Don’t let me lead you to believe that I Learned How is joyful all the time. In fact, one of the aspects that makes it fresh is the way the music dips into impatience like on “Artistic Thievery”, which pairs a frustrated message with a harder rock sound. This continues in the guitar bite and reflective tone of “Honest Pen”. These forays into emotional diversity keep the album alive, but the most balanced tracks are the ones that showcase appreciation. The anthemic and personal “I Learned How” feels happily confessional: “I still make music cause I love it. I’ve had to fight hard to get to share it. My good friends they help me care for it.” The addition of strings on the light and candid “To Be a Star” is another highlight. The final track, “Making It Better” feels reflective of the opener in tone: a bright guitar riff and a balance of emotion. It’s optimistic then it isn’t. It feels about right for a band moving between two sides of the spectrum.
I Learned How is a crisply produced collection of riff-driven tracks that both stands out from and fits in with the mainstream alternative rock scene. Honest, grand, and buzzing with energy, Dagan Harding and his band have a lot to share. We can only hope it’s not another three years before the next release.
Top Tracks: “I Learned How”; “To Be A Star”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)