North From Here is the most recent release from Henry Mansfield. He mentions, “it's something of a concept album, combining my recent Arctic experiences with the loss of a long-term relationship.” He wrote the bulk of the record while staying in a hostel in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.
The album is full to the brim with gorgeous instrumentation with piano and vocals taking the lead. You could argue this is musician’s music. There is really no kink in the armor here when it comes to the performances. Technical ability is one thing but Mansfield has no problem making emotionally captivating songs with expressive, relatable lyrics and instrumentation that symbiotically infuses into something that feels organic and pure.
I was on board when I heard “Shovel & A Stopwatch” which reminded me of Ben Folds Five. The piano is sleek and clean that sometimes was juxtaposed against a distorted bass. It’s incredibly dynamic which is really the case for all the songs as the album moves forward.
The horns on “From Orbit” hit the right notes and add a comforting warmth against the driving beat. I thought drumming was inventive and technically intriguing. In fact you could say that about all the performances which were creative and technically sound.
“Midnight Kids” is another winner but “Boys and Their Balloons” may be the album highlight. It is arguably the most emotionally resonant song and I thought Mansfield’s vocals were particularly compelling on this song. The song is another dynamic ride that fells pensive, cathartic and hopeful.
“Life After LA” is full on energy that felt inspirational in a similar way to Coldplay while “North in the Morning, Pt. I” is continuous in a similar vein. “Montana” provides some breathing room and “Intermission (Object Lesson)” shows incredible technical ability from Mansfield.
“Roseland” at least in mood and atmosphere was by the far the most melancholy song. Be prepared to shed a tear. “We Didn't” starts off melancholy but ends up being epic, hopeful and nostalgic. The fuzz bass returns with a vengeance on “Climb.” Mansfield closes with “North in the Morning, Pt. II” which felt like a proper close.
The production, songwriting and delivery is all top notch. This my favorite release from Mansfield. It's incredibly dense and an album where I could appreciate how much effort and planning went into the songs.
Don’t pass this one up.
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