PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Great Northern: Trading Twilight for Daylight

Tyler Womack

As a first album, Trading Twilight for Daylight feels too much like a retrospective: It has a lot to say about where it’s been, and very little about where it’s going.

The Great Northern

Trading Twilight for Daylight

Label: Eenie Meenie
US Release Date: 2007-05-15
UK Release Date: Available as import

Trading Twilight for Daylight is the Great Northern’s first album. It comes after two years together as a band, and that shows: The album’s sound is polished, confident, and well-thought out. It boasts half-a-dozen single-worthy songs. Unfortunately, the album is weighted towards its least interesting tracks -- songs that would have sounded derivative or overplayed in 1998. Today, they just seem unimaginative.

The Great Northern’s debut starts off with a cerebral lullaby of a song, “Our Bleeding Hearts”. Beginning with a simple piano line and a lonely xylophone, it’s graceful and academic. Drums roll in, followed by a stately string section. Lead singer Rachel Stolte’s voice -- understated, yet confident -- easily carries the song. “Our Bleeding Hearts” is distant, lonesome, and reassuring all at once. It makes the Great Northern seem like the female answer to Coldplay.

Holistically speaking, “Our Bleeding Hearts” could easily close an album. It could sit in the middle of an album of upbeat rock, an introspective digression. Or, as in Trading Twilight for Daylight, it could serve as an aperitif, the graceful beginning to a long feast of confident songs.

The first half of the album continues this trend: It’s full of long, precise, epic songs that seem equally fit to open or close an album. These songs each boast three or four good musical ideas. They’re anachronistic in tone, using chord structures and musical tropes from the last decade. The songs -- “Our Bleeding Hearts”, “Just a Dream”, “Home”, and “Telling Lies” -- seem cut from the same cloth as hit-makers Garbage, Texas, and Curve.

“Just a Dream”, for instance, revolves around an ascending bass line and a fuzzy alternarock guitar line. Strong male backing vocals from Solon Bixler supplement Stolte’s vivid strains. A basic minor-chord piano line creates a maudlin backdrop. One gets halfway through the song before realizing that none of it is particularly new. “Just a Dream” could have charted. It could easily have fit on a big-budget action movie soundtrack alongside Guns and Roses’ “Don’t Cry”.

“Home” and “Telling Lies” borrow much from the same era. By themselves, either could have been a hit. Together, they feel uninspired. Meanwhile, the next two songs -- “Low Is a Height” and “City of Sleep” -- are drawn out and sluggish. The album doesn’t truly become interesting until its seventh track, “A Sun a Sound”.

“A Sun a Sound” is also the only album track that seems to carry on the legacy of the Ship -- the studio graced by Grandaddy and Earlimart, where the members of the Great Northern came together. Both orchestral and synthesized, the song features Bixler taking on lead vocal duties. “A Sun a Sound” could have been a B-side from The Sophtware Slump, but it maintains enough of the Great Northern’s punchy footprint to be a truly novel song.

Likewise, “The Middle” is a sure surprise. It uses a formula familiar to fans of the New Pornographers: It’s composed largely of call-and-response between Bixler and Stolte. Bixler’s vocals ride a jaunty power pop line, while Stolte’s parts are measured and ethereal. A late favorite at track nine, it has a good mix-tape-ability about it.

One could make the argument that the major flaw of the Great Northern’s debut is tracking: The most exciting songs don’t appear until the album’s almost over. By that time, the listener has slogged through four epics and two sleepers. Trading Twilight for Daylight could be the beginning of an excellent career. But as a first album, it feels too much like a retrospective: It has a lot to say about where it’s been, and very little about where it’s going.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.