Artful folk suffuses Mike Edel’s second album

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April 7, 2015

Mike Edel

India, Seattle

Cordova Bay Records

Produced by Colin Stewart, Jason Cook and Mike Edel

 

Reviewed by Chris Ho

It’s hard to believe it has been four years since the release of Mike Edel’s debut album The Last of Our Mountains – a debut that earned the Victoria folk singer-songwriter national recognition with its roots firmly grounded in Western Canada. Born in rural Alberta, Edel’s songs re-awaken that sometimes long-forgotten Romantic era where vast wheat fields, outstretched blue skies and nostalgic landscapes inspired poets to capture the otherwise indescribable feelings of love and loss, and the memories of childhood. Once again, Mike Edel’s songwriting style feels spontaneous, organic and hard-hitting throughout his highly anticipated sophomore album, India, Seattle, which is set to release on April 14.

Those who are already fans of Edel’s debut album The Last Of Our Mountains, can sleep soundly knowing that the seasoned Island songwriter hasn’t strayed too far from the path on which he began. India, Seattle gives rise to much of the same folk-pop sentimentality found on his debut album, with its enchanting guitar hooks, compassionate lyrics, and infectious vocal melodies.

At the same time, his sophomore album is laden with twists and turns that dance uninhibited along the lines of straightforward folk-rock rhythms and artful, progressive soundscapes. Songs like “Blue Above the Green” and “St. Columba,” for example, begin with expectant acoustic guitars but then build gradually into a crescendo of crashing symbols and soft ambient noise that fill every crack and corner of the audio mix. The effect is emotionally potent – as if Edel has carefully plotted out the points where lightning strikes suddenly and a great storm whirls in all its chaos and darkness.

You can feel this especially in the climax of “St. Columba,” as Edel’s voice rises up through the reverb-rich guitars and splashing symbols: “Cut the ribbons, open the doors, down on your knees close to the floor and pray it will remain.” The “it” here is likely referring to nature itself; bringing to mind a timeless lyric where Bob Dylan is, arguably, addressing nature as he sings “you’re gonna’ make me lonesome when you go.”

Needless to say, India, Seattle stands as a testament to Mike Edel’s growth as a songwriter and musical poet. It is tastefully infused with newfound depth and artful ambience that hadn’t been as thoroughly explored in his previous debut, The Last Of Our Mountains.

It is also worthwhile to call attention to the eclectic nature of the new album, which is another element that makes India, Seattle stand out from The Last Of Our Mountains. Edel may be consistent, but he is not repetitive. There are many different influences that make themselves apparent in his latest album.

Some songs, such as “East Shore West Shore” and “Sunny Outside This Afternoon” have a very classic roots and folk sound to them; whereas others like “Thought About July” and “All The Morning” veer slightly to the way of alt country, with their twangy guitar licks and soft lap steel sounds. And there are even moments in “East Shore West Shore” and “All The Morning” that burst in the background with vocal hooks and bells singing brief little melodies that bring to mind an alt-pop vibe similar to Feist’s third full-length album, The Reminder.

Mike Edel makes no apology for the creative liberties he takes with India, Seattle. The pace of the album feels unrushed and effortless, and it is uncontrived in its deeper expression of love and nostalgia and the landscapes that shape our conceptions of the world around us. Where words fall short in describing the sometimes-cloudy haze of emotions, or the memories that remind us of what was found and what was lost, India, Seattle serves as a reminder that sometimes all you need to do is listen. And take it all in.

Chris Ho is a freelance writer and guitar and voice instructor.

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