Not too long ago, Erik Emanuelson bid adieu to his students, his stable job, and packed his bags for Portland to pursue musical dreams. The former English teacher had a lot on the line – some might say his adventure was crazy- but with a full band behind him, Emanuelson can say he’s made it with Grand Lake Islands‘ second release,Song From Far. The Grand Lake Islands project has evolved tremendously from humble beginnings as a solo musician in New York City to a new life and new band members in Portland, Oregon. Song From Far is an album about transitions (“Atlantic-Pacific”, “White to Grey”, “Song From Near”/”Song From Far”), which reflect the changes that have occurred over the last five years for Emanuelson.
The semi-title track “Song Sung From Far” could be a long-lost Monsters Of Folk tale with Emanuelson singing in a voice reminiscent of a cross between My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Nashville Skyline-era Bob Dylan. Where Portland is known for the heavy amount of rain it receives throughout the year, the Grand Lakes Islands choose to combat it and revel in uplifting expansive tracks. The weather and rain is a strong influence, particularly on “Atlantic-Pacific”, where you can picture the raindrops splashing against your window as they fall to be your sole entertainment on a grey afternoon.
By far the standout track on Song From Far is ”Monterey”. Emanuelson is a talented songwriter, but here his words take a backseat to the band’s secret weapon, guitarist Evan Krogh. Krogh creates the hazy day soundscape that elevates the track, making it the essential soundtrack to the land John Steinbeck made famous. Where most of the album is a testament to snowy and rainy days stuck indoors, “Monterey” is one of the few rays of sunshine that makes its way through the grey with an elevating guitar line that swallows you up.
The band has a penchant for lengthy songs with all but one of the tracks extending past the four-minute mark. Sometimes you’ll never want the song to end (“Silver Moon”), while other times they stretch on a little too long (“Canopy”). Song lengths aside, the Grand Lake Islands have created an album to be experienced, and Song From Far is a perfect accompaniment for your escapist thoughts – one that might have you finding new inspirations on rainy days where there appear to be none.
Grand Lake Islands’ Song From Far is out January 20, 2015 on Good Mountain Records. Check their website and Facebook pages for details on purchasing the LP.