Alongside New-Grave, the more alternative Singer/Songwriters seem to be becoming the in thing at the moment, popping up here, there and everywhere! It’s rather excellent to say the least. Northcote is one such performer from the latter category. This isn’t music for the Ed Sheeran generation (by no means are we slagging off the mighty Ed here), this is a Singer/Songwriter style group for the rockers of the world. Brilliant vocal performances and tight musicianship come together to make an album that is both easy on the ear, yet manages to avoid being full of cringeworthy cliches. It’s a very personal work, evidently written from the heart and played with genuine emotion.
Proceedings kick off with ‘This Is Our Time’, a track that stands out as the most stereo-typically ‘bearded men with acoustic guitars’ (which should really be a genre in itself), with nu-folk sensibilities dripping from every pore. Silky-smooth vocal harmonies flow together like the mighty flood the lyrics reference, sliding into a slightly more rocky territory as the song progresses. Electric guitars slowly drip into being as the track crescendos into a sonic-potion of hope and positivity, telling us to leave the past behind and take the present in hand. As cliched as it may be to sing about love among all people, Northcote cleverly manage to side-step sounding cheesy, conveying a genuinely authentic message of peace within us.
The overall theme of hope and positivity is strong here. ‘Small Town Dreams’, title track ‘Hope Is Made Of Steel’ and ‘You Can Never Let Me Down’ all tell stories of fighting through the bad times and coming on through the other, stronger than ever before. It’s a great sentiment to promote, but as the album reaches it’s mid-way point, it does start to grate somewhat. By no means are we saying that an album full of tear-jerkers about nothing but misery, struggle and strife would be any better, but the unrelenting positivity and lack of movement from any theme other than ‘things are going to be great’ starts to get a little dull.
When the subject shifts, even in the smallest ways, is when this album starts to shine once more. ‘Leaving Wyoming’ is, without doubt, the stand-out track of the ten on offer. Although the overall message of ‘everything will be alright in the end’ is still here, the alternate direction it comes from is a welcome change in pace. It’s slow, soaked through with genuine emotion and showcases Northcote’s songwriting at it’s absolute best. The story of a young man leaving his hometown and everything he knows behind him to begin anew is one that many may well be able to relate to. It’s a coming of age tale that can be described as nothing but stunning. One or two more like this could of turned what is certainly a very good album into an outstanding one.