Swedish born singer/songwriter Sarah MacDougall has managed to turn a lot of heads since her debut album, Across the Atlantic, dropped in 2009. Her exhilarating brand of new wave folk has been lauded over by magazines and radio stations from Belgium to the UK to Canada and once you experience it for yourself, it’s really not difficult to understand why.
In between tours of Europe and North America, she’s been hard at work on her latest endeavour, Grand Canyon; an eight track treat that proves she’s worthy of the praise that she’s been getting. Reverberating in with “I Want to see the Light (Lost from our Eyes)”, the compilation gets off to an enthralling start with an urgent riff ahead of some very vibrant vocals. The instrumentation builds intrigue and anticipation as it grows behind an increasingly resonant harmony to forge a cool and cutting opening number.
“Sparrowland” follows upon vigorous percussion that’s soon met by a meaningful melody. The bustling beat keeps things exciting on the approach to a warm and passionate chorus. Its mellow mood is rich with depth and feeling. “Malmo i mitt hjarta” takes over through slow and solemn instrumental work before soft and sobering vocals set in. The music builds continuously, maintaining an emotional ambience, while the persistent percussion adds a sense of anticipation. Its strings are particularly affecting as the whole thing evolves towards a bracing climax.
“Grand Canyon” bounces into an optimistic harmony next, which is made all the more uplifting by the enthusiastic attitude of the instrumentation. It stays captivating as it moves forward at a purposeful pace. “The Story of Pippi and Lionheart” follows by erupting into a plethora of upbeat musical motifs and strikingly vivid vocals. As it trucks along steadily, it emanates a delightfully cheerful atmosphere. The result is a light and airy anthem, whose happy harmony is guaranteed to brighten up a room.
The frantic riff of “Baby, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” arrives afterwards, establishing an ominous air ahead of forceful vocals which have a powerful impact. It’s a stirring yet mournful piece that makes for a gripping listen. “Devil’s Gap” is a truly touching ballad in its wake, opting instead for a stripped down style and heartfelt harmony. Once it’s done, the instrumentation of “2012” goes back in a more merry direction, while its initially lamenting lyrics gradually adopt a more positive demeanour. It eventually bursts into an extremely rousing choir chorus, whose reassuring words bring the record to an invigorating end.
Sarah MacDougall’s work here may be relatively simple but it’s also amazingly absorbing. There’s a tremendous amount of spirit and energy packed into each offering on Grand Canyon, affording it a profound and inspirational feel which makes a lasting impression. It’s definitely worth taking the time to check out, regardless of your preferred musical genre.