Head North

 

Some lights are flashes, others steady beams of illumination. For Head North, a band which began shortly after its principal songwriters Brent Martone, Ben Lieber, and Alex Matos graduated from a Buffalo, NY high school, light served as a blank slate, a chance to regroup and refocus. In 2015, the band released Bloodlines, an EP which served a fulcrum point between lockjaw pop-punk and shadowy indie-rock, and followed the path of many of their contemporaries. A glimmer of ingenuity, a blip of subdued color and sound. Then nothing.
 

Then a return. As the band's first proper LP, The Last Living Man Alive Ever In The History of the World extends its conceptual aims past its novel-length title. A self-described account of an alternate universe where God and love are outlawed, Head North travel through this uneasy crisis to bridge the gap between the spiritual and the earthbound, the human and the heartfelt. Gone away are pure bouts of aggression. Instead, Brent Martone's prickled whimper takes on the measured release of Americana while strings, clipped synths, and horns swell through the record's menagerie of textures. Tracks like "Somewhere, ND" marry wisps of spoken-word confessions in an almost prayer-like stance, while "Pulse" heightens Martone's sermon to arena-rock mounts. Over fourteen songs, a journey is captured which carries the same base allegiance to atmosphere and pressure as their past releases, but Head North's covered ground has more purpose in its grit, more wisdom in its motion. And perhaps that's all this New York band needed to keep going: a chance to reflect on where they've been, and an appeal to how they could best continue ahead.