Sid Hagan – Glacial Plateau – Album Review
I pretty much yearn for sincerity in the majority of the music I listen to…it’s much more rare than you might think it is really. As much as we all might be invested in the songs we create, write, and record – it’s just not an element that can be included in every band or artist’s music along the way…and I get that – depending on what the theme of any given tune might be, heck, sometimes it wouldn’t even make sense to make sincerity a focal point for some out there. Melodic stuff, sure…songs about chicks & cars, probably not so much…I suppose you could say it’s all about the main priorities & what’s most important to communicate; we can all be sincerely passionate, but not always passionately sincere – following me?
Then there are some artists & bands out there that radiate this quality in their material…people like Sid Hagan, that are inherently sincere without question. From the music on his latest record Glacial Plateau, to the things I’ve read online, to messages I’ve personally received from the man himself – you can tell that Hagan’s as authentic & as real as people get. This might be a record stocked full of slower cuts, all atmospherically-inclined & thought-provoking tunes…but as I’ve always said here, if you’re into it, chances are, I will be too…and you can hear just how much this whole experience means to Sid from the beginning to the end of this album. That’s the kind of thing that matters to me & my ears.
Sid starts his new record in an atmospherically-inclined style with “Glacial Plateau Descent,” and eventually, you’ll find he closes the record in a similar fashion with “Glacial Plateau Remember” at the very end. Plus there’s all that awesomeness in between that you don’t wanna miss out on either. The first of a set of seven tunes, “Glacial Plateau Descent” will give you a great first impression of Hagan’s music with the easygoing, soul-soothing vibes he creates at the beginning of this record – it’s that perfect kind of gateway into a record where he won’t reveal all of his cards in this initial experience, but give you all the right pieces of this puzzle for you to truly want to continue putting this picture into focus & keep on listening. You could parse & piece this tune out and find a bunch of stuff you love from Folk sounds to gentle Indie, Rock, or even Instrumental/Ambient ain’t too far of a stretch with the singing of this first tune happening without using an actual word you could find in the dictionary…”Glacial Plateau Descent” has a hazy-meets-dreamy vibe that’s like those moments right before sleeping or the first seconds when you wake up. Or at the very least, I can only hope it’s sounds like this song that you hear in your head when you’re drifting off to dreamland or starting your day with a fresh perspective…you get the idea…I ain’t recommending you just up & fall asleep the moment you turn this album on, I’m describing the effect of the feeling a track like “Glacial Plateau Descent” will give ya. Still with me? Right on then…let these tunes keep on spinning…and then spin’em all again…you’ll find right from moment one that Hagan’s got lots of great ideas and a subtle sound he can fully claim as his own.
Opening with a beautiful dose of guitar & vocals to introduce us to the second cut, “Wolf’s Around” – listen to the way this tune expands around the fifty-second mark as it heads towards the second verse. Expertly structured to deliver…subtlety reigns supreme here…you’ll hear many atmospheric elements like slide guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals play a huge role in the most understated of ways as this tune plays on. Strong melody up-front from the microphone and Hagan’s vocals…you could argue that “Wolf’s Around” is weighted much more heavily on the verses of this song, in the sense that the chorus is really much more of a vibe, as opposed to any specific set of words to guide you through. It makes for an exceptional balance between an auditory & sensory experience that makes a ton of sense to the ears as it plays, giving you the details through the verses, and soothing the soul through the ease & comfort you’ll find in the warm glow of the simplified chorus on “Wolf’s Around.” The instrumentation shines throughout this whole record – Sid’s assembled an incredible cast of characters & studio-aces to help assist him in bringing these songs of his to life…and I gotta say, he’s made some extremely wise choices with the players he’s brought in. “Wolf’s Around” is a great example of a subtle & mellow style of melody that you could still easily consider to be bold based on the final results; there’s a confidence you’ll hear in the music & vocals that stems from a true belief in the material being created – you can’t miss it. In many of these tunes, “Wolf’s Around” certainly included, you’ll find that it’s not always about the specific words being sung, so much as it’s about the harmony Sid & his talented crew bring to each song – sometimes you’ll find that the layers of vocalizations where singing occurs without using a single word can be just as impressive as anything that’s written out at length. Tunes like “Wolf’s Around” have a very natural & organic flow to them…and as the song progresses, you’ll find the lyrics that were so prevalent & enticing at the very beginning shift into blissful moments of singing without a word at all as this song plays on. You never know what’ll catch the people’s attention, but I can tell ya Hagan’s given his music every advantage by the many dimensions, layers, and true depths you’ll find in the production, writing, and performances…everything comes out with its own way in…these tunes have an accessibility that’s bound to appeal to a ton of listeners out there.
“Holdin Down The Bottom” was one of my immediate favorites from Glacial Plateau…it’s a downright fascinating tune to listen to if ya ask me, and one of the cuts where you’ll find the magic between Sid and vocalist Devon Sproule creates an exceptionally stunning combination you can’t take your ears off of. Fantastic guitars in this cut from beginning to end, and as the second longest cut on the record at over six & a half-minutes in length, that’s definitely a massive part of what keeps us engaged & entertained at all times. Awesome movement in the bass-lines here…you’ll find them actually on several of these cuts from Glacial Plateau, but they really stand-out brilliantly here on “Holdin Down The Bottom.” Credit to the bassists on this record…Jonathan Mills, Joe Carvell, Luis Espaillat all make an appearance…I don’t know who exactly does what or when they do it, but I can tell ya with confidence that you’ll find the bass-lines come out strong throughout this entire lineup of songs on Hagan’s record. What I love about this tune beyond the performance & writing, is the layout of the design & structure of this cut…listen to the stride Sid & his crew of surrounding talent find around the halfway-point of “Holdin Down The Bottom” and how perfectly this song begins to expand & evolve into even more expressive & involved terrain…listen to how the impressive use of layering continuously strengthens every single moment you hear. Devon and Sid sound amazing when their vocals are bouncing off each other & between the lefts & rights as the chorus of “Holdin Down The Bottom” flexes both charm & charisma from every opportunity. At the very beginning, you’d likely assume that this cut would remain stoic in a fairly low-key gear…by the halfway mark, you’ll realize just how much more was waiting for you…and by the end, you can’t help but appreciate just how much effort goes into creating a song that’s more than six-minutes long, yet comes across as fluid & smooth in the final results as this track does.
So…hmmm. You know…I dig me a record that’ll keep me guessing, always have, always will. From the moment that Glacial Plateau began, I felt like we had a lineup of cuts that flowed in a logical, but natural progression that would make sense to just about any listener out there…and then “Gas Pocket” came along. Am I into this song? You bet. Did I see it coming? Absolutely not. Will others ‘get it’ when they hear it? Honestly…I couldn’t tell ya one way or the other. Some people will love this bizarre oddity every bit as much as I do…but of course, the flipside of the coin is that those out there that need a typical verse/chorus/verse to enjoy a song are probably completely screwed here. “Gas Pocket” isn’t looking to win you over with a catchy chorus – this is where Sid Hagan shows us a more artistic/poetic and all-out experimental side of his music…such a pursuit always results in a more niche audience, that’s just the nature of the game. For those of you out there like myself that are looking for something more than a lil’ bit different however, “Gas Pocket” is beyond rad; it comes from as far out of left-field as any song you’ll likely hear…but if you ask me, it’s unexpected moments like this that always lead an artist to highly unique results…and you can’t argue that being the case here. From the laugh-track that’s built into the song, to the heavy low-end synth sounds rumbling through the atmosphere, the even lower-toned vocals and the odd narrative & story that comes with it, and c’mon – the bold creativity on display from the drop of “Gas Pocket” – you gotta dig on music that does everything it can to be different than the rest of what’s out there. As the messages & voices begin to scramble past the fourth-minute and “Gas Pocket” goes on to make insightful social commentary in the strangest of ways – this is the kind of song you can’t help but take notice of…because it’s seriously THAT different. It becomes apparent right about here that Sid must have not played like the other kids did in the sandbox he grew up in…”Gas Pocket” is the kind of cut that breaks just about every norm in music, and proves that by doing so, you can discover entirely unique, new, and exciting avenues of sound that have yet to be fully explored.
Stunning musicianship & instrumentation on “Making The Light On Park” – Sid rights the course of the ship back to its more melodically-based methods employed at the outset of the record and brings things back to a normal that everyone out there can enjoy, as opposed to the weirdness of “Gas Pocket.” You gotta love the amount of attention to detail you’ll find on Glacial Plateau – LISTENING to the magic being created within the layers of this one song alone, would leave most of you out there with a favorable impression of Hagan’s music, and rightly so. Between the incredible tones soaring through the mix from the lead-guitars to the amazing bass-lines holding the rhythm & melody of “Making The Light On Park” tightly intact…you drift into this dreamy vibe with ease. Listen to moments like around the 2:40-mark – and recognize that for a lot of us checking this record out, it’s the tiniest details that can end up stacking up into something that makes a much larger impact. Credit to both Sid and to Paul Curreri who produced Glacial Plateau…they’ve done an outstanding job of making sure all the tiniest moments in the music add up to contribute to a much larger & memorable experience. Pace, melody, songwriting, and structure all play a big role on “Making The Light On Park” and give the movement a genuinely interesting texture & sound that’s as curiously assembled as it is entertaining. It’s a pretty delicate tune when it comes right down to it…but much like I commented at the beginning of this review, you’ll notice that Sid is able to do ‘delicate’ in the boldest of ways that reveal the confidence & commitment he applies to the songs on Glacial Plateau. This particular tune likely has a bit of an advantage on some of the others in the set when it comes to the masses listening, as it restores a more straightforward style of song than what was previously experienced on “Gas Pocket” and brings back the comfort of a structure that people will easily glide along with, sink into, and fully absorb its quaintness.
“TJ” is inspired by one of the most remarkable/heartbreaking parts of Sid’s journey in creating this album. In the notes that come along with the record, Hagan details a lot of what went on in behind the scenes to form the themes & songs on this album…and in one section, they read: “In some ways this project ended up being a remembrance of my little brother Thomas John who only lived for 15 days in 1956. I was 3 and my sister was 1 1/2 and for a very long time we never even knew who Thomas John was or that he had ever existed.” By the title alone, you can infer that “TJ” = Thomas John of course – but you’ll also hear it in the words Sid’s crafted to accompany this tune. While Hagan might be much older of course now, you can certainly imagine how such an event would never leave ya in the course of one lifetime…and you can appreciate how you’d never want it to. While “TJ” might have only been around for the shortest of times, there’s no telling exactly just how much of an impact his existence would have made on Sid or the rest of his family…that’s a lot for anyone to go through for sure. “TJ” comes out with a beautifully tributary vibe in its lyricism; of course it gets personal, but it also remains realistically objective too – a lot of what Sid writes into the words of this song are thoughts, feelings, and emotions you can empathize & sympathize with…because the sincerity is as real, authentic, and humble as it gets. It’s with knowing the full-story…or at least the pieces we’re privy to by reading about this album online, that you’ll find yourself listening intently to the words Sid’s penned to this tune. As much as you might think you could ever have an idea of how losing a brother so young might affect someone, it’s that sheer curiosity that comes with knowing you probably have no idea at all what it’s like to have to go through what Sid’s been through, that you listen to the details in his words for clues as to how it’s all affected him personally. And ultimately, I think you’ll find in both the lyrics AND the music, that the tributary way this song has been written, reflects on this whole situation with a fondness you probably wouldn’t expect; it leaves no doubt that of course it’s been tough at times, but for the most part, the whole vibe of “TJ” pumps out a beautiful perspective of love, respect, and acceptance. It’s a really cool tune from a writing perspective…and no doubt, a challenging subject to dig into, find the core of what Sid was seeking to express, and get that entire set of feelings & emotions onto a recording; I think you have to admire the smoothness in the final results here, and how much the entire sound of “TJ” comes out so serenely…like an audible clue that tells you Sid has found his peace with such a traumatic event.
Glacial Plateau ends by somewhat revisiting the way the album began with “Glacial Plateau Descent” now morphing into “Glacial Plateau Remember,” bookending a set of songs that you have been able to tell from beginning to end, truly mean something important to Sid Hagan. Personally, I think this was a really good move. If I’m being honest, I’d be willing to bet that 9/10 people probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the first and last songs…but regardless of that, I believe 10/10 people would fully appreciate how having both these tunes where they are in the lineup really leads to a conclusion of this set you couldn’t possibly miss. It’s not like that awkward speech you’ve seen where you don’t really know if it’s over or not and the person is just standing at the podium, waiting for applause that never comes – it’s the polar opposite. Once “Glacial Plateau Remember” even starts, you know the end of this album is on its way…and once it’s over, you feel that elusive conclusiveness so many artists/bands struggle to find. I mean…look…I’m sure Sid knows just as well as I do, or anyone listening likely, that a song like “Glacial Plateau Remember” isn’t about to go and light-up the airwaves – that’s not the intention any artist would have in creating a track like this…it’s much more about providing a vibe that has all the comfort & solace of a non-judgmental companion & true friend – almost like a song like this will be there for you, even when it might feel like the rest of the world is against you.
This whole record was a wonderfully unique experience. Pace-wise, a slower album or songs are always going to make for a somewhat tougher sell to the masses – but if you’re looking for more out of every inch of the music you’re listening to, you really can’t beat Glacial Plateau for the attention to detail you’ll find. There’s art in this craft here…there’s a genuine desire to make music & communicate through it, that shines from start to finish; the more I played this album, the more I found myself really appreciating Sid Hagan’s delicate-but-bold approach & how he got the tiniest details to stand-out BIG in all the right ways, all in an effort to make a record that makes a true impact through songs with deeper meanings that clearly mean something important to him personally, but could mean everything to you as well.
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