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Downpilot: New Great Lakes



Album: New Great Lakes
Label: Tapete

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Album by album, Paul Hiraga’s folk-rock project Downpilot inches closer to becoming something special. Downpilot’s fourth LP is another singer-songwriter record, just like what Hiraga has done before, and like the earlier Downpilot albums, New Great Lakes loads up on slow, quiet, twangy songs, with lithe melodies carried by Hiraga’s smooth, resonant voice. But New Great Lakes has a more pristine sound than Hiraga’s previous work: from the gently swaying album-opener “Edge Of The Flood” to the rising, John Denver-esque acoustic ballad “Rosebud Of The Plain,” Downpilot evokes the feeling of a crisp country morning by a placid pond. There are a couple of problems with this approach. For one, Hiraga’s lyrics in songs like “NY Storms” and “The Rustbelt” speak of blight and heartache, in ways that make the cleanness of New Great Lakes seem like avoidance. And at times, as on “Gone Castaway” and “So I’ll Try,” the pleasantly strummy and hummy feel masks indistinct song structure. But Hiraga’s lovely vocals—and the way he uses those vocals to keep pushing his melodies upward—never fails to enchant. And when Downpilot has all its pieces in place, as on the woozy, hypnotic title track, the band rivals Dolorean and The Low Anthem in the “achingly gorgeous Americana” game.