Monday, 28 November 2011

Downpilot - New Great Lakes

What is Americana? For Paul Hiraga, it’s the whole landscape. In ‘New Great Lakes’, his third album under moniker ‘Downpilot’, he paints a heart-breaking picture of his hometown - grey, drizzly Seattle, while infusing it with enough southern charm to turn a bucking bronco into a ‘my little pony’.

From start to finish Paul’s blanket of intimate melancholy is ruggedly beautiful; full of dreamy chord sequences and warm, rustic production. The modest accompaniments to his guitar and piano (brushed drums, an ancient sounding melotron, glockenspiel and so on) are understated and restrained, suggestive of immense power but never satisfying us with the full whack– one of my personal favourite musical effects.

The only thing that taints Downpilot’s music for me is that it’s too easy to see where the influences come from. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy has obviously contributed the americana sentiment, with the more tender moments of Wilco and R.E.M filling up the rest. His dusky pipes are a dead ringer for Ryan Adams’. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with having your heroes (especially with such sublime taste), I can’t see that Paul would be left with much if his were taken out of the equation.

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