By: David Van Nostrand
It is hard to know what to make of the sylvan pretension in the Sleepy Eepee (released February 19 on Eenie Meenie Records). Great Northern bills the album as "the prequel to the critically acclaimed, Trading Twilight for Daylight." And while some of this effort manages to sound organic and serene enough to conjure a kind of pastoral elegance, it's impossible to escape the feeling that most of these B-sides should have remained on the cutting room floor.
You can't blame the band for trying to capitalize on the momentum they created with their full-length debut, and some people might be interested in hearing Great Northern during its most formative period, but the record itself is not exceptional and it never really had the chance to be. The songwriters are fledglings, the band is still searching for a sonic identity and the songs represent the bottom of Great Northern's barrel.
Ennui set in on this EP halfway through, which is a serious problem because the record is only twenty minutes long. The plodding, back-to-back tedium of "Summertime" and "Radio" bring the listener to a standstill, and by the time the drums come in again for closer, "Shakey," the new life that invigorates the song reinforces the weakness of the previous two.
Great Northern is a band with lofty aspirations, think the Arcade Fire via Elliot Smith, so it is not easy to understand why they would embrace the sparse arrangements that slow down their collective pulse. Their best moments are the over arranged ones, where strings, synthesizers and a celebration of pretense make up for the half-baked songwriting. Mandolins, pianos and a sturdy backbeat propel songs like "Loose Ends," "This is a Problem," and "Shakey." Without these props, the songs in the middle are left, impossibly, to fend for themselves.
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