I don’t know about you, but I find myself gravitating towards a particular style of music at this time of year. The Christmas holidays are over, it seems like ages until the next payday and it’s still bloody freezing. I want something to lift my mood, something to help iron out the creases and remind me that the nights are getting lighter and that spring will eventually arrive. Well, AMBY have just ‘discovered’ an artist that we hope will add a little spring to your step. His name is Van William and he hails from California, although much of his formative years were spent on his father’s salmon fishing boat in Alaska. I say ‘discovered’ because if the name sounds familiar, you may already know that he founded the distinctive indie rock bands Port O’Brien and WATERS; I still have a soft spot for the former’s first studio album All We Could Do Was Sing and I was initially beguiled by this record’s focus on the Alaskan landscape and the fishing industry which dominates it. This interest fueled my intrigue when his latest endeavour was recently announced. It comes in the form of a new record called Countries, and it is released today.
Countries was written after the biggest heartbreak of Van’s life, coupled with news that his father was retiring from his salmon fishing business in Alaska. Van had always thought he’d be the one to take over the family business so this compounded what was a already a huge time of life upheaval for him. Writing this solo record proved to be a form of catharsis for him. Despite circumstances, the result is incredibly uplifting – few make therapeutics sound as fun as Van does here and album highlight Revolution perfectly encapsulates this impression. Initially plaintive during it’s trumpet intro, the song’s themes are not necessarily buoyant but there is a sanguine sensibility that emerges as the song progresses, enhanced by the gloriously lilting, musicality of First Aid Kit’s Klara and Johanna Söderberg, who provide significant harmonies in their own inimitable style which transports the song to a very different and completely satisfying reactionary plane. There is certainly an honesty to his songwriting which he explains when he says, “I was freaked out, but part of that freak-out was this renewed sense of drive and purpose. I had to take stock of where I was at musically. My previous projects no longer felt honest in their pursuit and style. This cataclysm of events shook me back into feeling present with what I want to do and who I want to be as an artist. I don’t know if I would’ve got there without it”.
You can hear Van talking about the creation of this record with his dad on his fishing boat in Alaska here. Allow those winter blues drift away by listening to Revolution below. Van will be embarking upon a huge North American and European tour with First Aid Kit later in the month and details can be found here.
Review by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto