If you’re looking to close out 2017 with a thoughtful and inviting sonic journey, Ottawa-based Bitter North has you covered with Vacation Days, their second EP. With their recent six-track release, this alt-indie-rock outfit looks to ease you into the New Year by surrounding you in solid rhythms and smooth, often haunting vocals.
Serving as guides for your voyage are Colin Campbell (Drums/Vocals), Matt Cress (Guitar/Vocals), Matt Cook (Keyboard/Vocals), Hannah Fraser (Lead Vocals), and Ben Spero (Bass/Vocals). Together, Bitter North sets you on the path with expressive lyrics, velvety harmonies, and nostalgic instrumentation. The tunes on the EP vary from hypnotic jaunts about desire and identity, to tapping directly into the concept of lengthy journeys – in memory, of madness. Up tempo grooves are contrasted by lyrics that underscore a darker message lending a depth to the album, which positions the listener as a kind of explorer discovering new meanings with each listen.
You know you’re in good hands right off the hop as the album-opening Day In Day Out immediately sets you adrift in a sea of melodic vocals, which quietly soar and intertwine and mingle with carefully placed chords. Combined, the effect is a powerful one, and quite literally sets the tone for what’s to come.
I Don’t Mind, is tempting to sing along with, as its catchy hooks belie the simmering darkness in such lyrics as “Lost but can’t be found, no one wants me round, left my love at home, best I go alone”, which are lifted along by rhythmic kick drums and tambourines, and jangly, southern-inspired guitar riffs. Wrapping up with a strong instrumental finish, this track is a symbol of the EP’s overall counterplay between its rhythmic beats and the astonishing depth and borderline melancholy of its ideas.
Bitter North cranks the gas for the final stretch home with The Wolf You Cry, which evokes another touch of throwback vibes with its rhythmic keys, pounding drums, and swirling vocals that envelop another track chock full of darker themes. It’s a truly kaleidoscopic tune that weaves together the tones and ideas that have make up the EP as a whole, and provides a strong finish to the experience.
With Vacation Days, Bitter North has created something special, where each song manages the feat of shifting in tempo and tone while still retaining the overall hypnotic rhythm of the EP as a whole. With loads of sonic tension, juicy guitar riffs and solid percussion work, Vacation Days is both well executed and evocative. It’s as catchy as it is deep, and it makes for a modern-day trip down the rabbit hole that Alice would be proud of.