‘Ceremonies’ album review
artist: Northern Abbey
release date: October 25, 2019
star rating: three out of five
review by Levi Yager
Streams of sadness and gusts of gladness plow through the lush sonic pastures of Northern Abbey’s new collection of songs. This mix of emotions, represented both musically and lyrically, creates a complex environment in which the listener can wander freely. It’s an enjoyable and unique EP that’s also a tad poppier than Northern Abbey’s older releases. While not perfect, Ceremonies succeeds in providing an involving experience with something for everyone.
A frosty dawn breaks over Ceremonies with “Daylight.” Its arrival is heralded by ambient synthesizer waves, joined later by piano and vocals. “Daylight” is fascinating as a gloomy, yet hopeful opener. Its melodic hook in the chorus is soft, bright and super-singable, and the bridge really comes into its own with quick, electric plucking. As a whole, the song isn’t amazing, but it’s surely a delightful start to the EP.
The strongest section of the six-song tracklisting includes numbers three through five. Therein lies the meat of Ceremonies – and its more-somber scenery. Of these tracks, my favorite would probably be the fifth, titled “Valleys.” It’s a slower song that’s ushered in with dark keys, which immediately establish its overall melancholy tone. Adding much variety to the vista, blinding synths take over in the second half of “Valleys.” All the elements of this song’s composition and production show astonishing attention to detail; the numerous, different sounds in the mix culminate beautifully in a mesmerizing procession. It ends with the pang of “nothing feels like home” sung by frontman Nick Lambert.
There are certainly more than a few memorable moments on Ceremonies. However, there are less-memorable moments present as well. Backtracking here, the second song, “Together,” is a good example. This one’s a fun duet with twinkling instrumentation and some real groovy parts, but it’s kind of forgettable in the big picture. Worse off is closer, “Thirties.” It’s a silly song about being a “mid-thirties guy” and staying home instead of going out on the weekend. “Thirties” isn’t a total dud, but it’s still essentially a throwaway track.
In the long run, Ceremonies proves a pleasant journey, if uneven. Though it’s just shy of outright greatness, this EP is definitely worth your while if you’re in the mood for new, original tunes. Careful craftsmanship and palpable passion ultimately tip the scales in its favor. Give it a spin or two.