Published Oct 31, 2019It's been nearly three years since Leif Vollebekk's Polaris Music Prize-shortlisted Twin Solitude shone a spotlight on his talent for emotive ballads. Now, the artist returns with a record that comes from the same energy, but spices up his collective output.
New Ways was written alongside and in the aftermath of Twin Solitude, and you can hear an equivalent sense of grand emotion on "Hot Tears" and "Apalachee Plain." On the former, the artist finds a ticking beat and catchy repetitions that made previous hit "Elegy" such a success. The latter revels in spaciousness and draws from experiences on the road, both key elements of Vollebekk's sound.
Where New Ways soars most prominently into fresh territory is when Vollebekk allows himself to blend pop-soul beats into the mix. You can sense the artist's avid appreciation of Prince and Bill Withers in the groove and vocal playfulness.
On "Blood Brother," the intensity is kicked up for a jauntier blend, complete with electric guitar reverberation. "My life is on the radio / they're saying it's a dream," he sings, and you can't help but note that even with the shift in scope, Vollebekk is laying a piece of himself down. The same could be said for the more anxiously rhythmic "Never Be Back," which pulls the colour blue into its palette and showcases Vollebekk's vocal aptitude, while streaming lyrics that make you feel as though you are eavesdropping.
The remarkable feat of New Ways is the ability to both resonate with those who loved Twin Solitude, while also pushing tendrils out towards listeners in search of more versatility. Though the record stands tall on its own, time will tell us if this is a transitional moment towards something new, or the completing half of a pair. (Secret City)