Published Feb 27, 2015Sarah MacDougall's latest record, Grand Canyon, is steeped in sounds that remind you of her Nordic roots and Northern Canadian homestead: patches of synths, vocal delay and reverberated strings, layered over top of MacDougall's uniquely wavering voice, all wrapped into a package reminiscent of dark winters and aurora borealis.
But it's not just richer sounds and a slight folk departure that sets Grand Canyon apart from MacDougall's previous two studio releases (2011's The Greatest Ones Alive and 2009's Across the Atlantic); MacDougall delves into deeper and darker themes on this record. The album's first track, "I Want to See the Light" references a sombre moment in the history of her hometown, Malmö, Sweden, when an anti-immigrant gunman targeted only dark-haired people over the course of 2010 ("Did you hear the news today? / There's a killer on the loose / He's only shooting dark haired people / Could be aiming right at you"). Similarly, the track "Malmö i mitt hjärta" — translated from her native Sweden as "Malmö, My Heart" — has a lingering sadness and earthy sound to it; it's simultaneously a love and goodbye letter to her hometown.
But Grand Canyon has more punch to it than just longing. Tracks like "The Story of Pippi and Lionheart" and "Sparrowhead" have driving drum lines and catchy synth riffs that make them perfect for road tripping through Canada's tundra, with appearances by Leah Abramson and Rose Cousins, respectively. Finished off with the more acoustic-driven "2012," and you have an album of darkness and light, the spring and sun after a long, arctic winter. (Independent)