Substance and accessibility are often considered opposing forces when it comes to pop music, making it all the more impressive when a band like Scenic Route to Alaska so effortlessly delivers ample doses of both.
Long Walk Home, the prairie indie outfit's soon-to-drop third LP, finds them effortlessly weaving catchy vocals and memorable melodies through rich arrangements – instantly engaging but begging to be heard again and again. It's a coveted combination within the crowded sphere of indie rock – and one that's rarely the product of anything but time, talent, and heaps of hard work. Of course, Scenic Route to Alaska are no strangers to any of those.
The easygoing Edmonton-based trio – Trevor Mann on lead vocals and guitar, drummer Shea Connor, and bassist Murray Wood – only picked up their instruments in their early teens, but didn't waste any time getting started with the woodshedding. They formed a band and started practicing together, first on a slew of R&B and rock ‘n roll covers for wedding gigs and hall shows. Before long, they were in high demand and even being tapped as something of a session band for an array of local artists from a myriad of genres. Then, in 2010, well versed in the scene and familiar with virtually every venue in the city, the three close friends adopted Scenic Route to Alaska moniker and their original and organic take on folk-inspired indie pop was seeded.
Their early releases – a self-titled 2011 EP and 2012 full-length All These Years – belied the youth of the band and its members, owing to their and years of making music together and tight-knit friendship. The attention and accolades poured in and earned them performances at prestigious events like the Edmonton and Canmore Folk Festivals and CMW. They propelled themselves to an even higher peak with 2014's Warrington, earning rave reviews in addition to shows alongside contemporaries like Hey Rosetta!, Said the Whale, and Born Ruffians. They also landed a WCMA nod for Pop Recording of the Year and were finalists in the inaugural edition of Alberta's Peak Performance Project.
In early 2016, they entered Monarch Studios in Vancouver with Howard Redekopp (Tegan & Sara, The New Pornographers) to cut the 11 tracks comprising Long Walk Home. The record picks up where Warrington left off, capturing their tight and dynamic live sound but boasting a more elaborate and dynamic production than any prior offering.
The high-energy opener and lead single “Coming Back” offers a perfect sampling of what's most abundant throughout the record: a slew of group vocals and sing-alongs anchored by cheery melodies and impressive musicianship. Meanwhile, the radio-ready “Love Keeps” sounds like Wintersleep covering classic Pearl Jam while the slow-burning “Taking Its Toll” and “Home Stretch” really showcase Mann's lyricism atop shimmering and straightforward guitar leads, emphasizing his ability to sway from focused and fragile to all-out frenzy.
Thematically, Long Walk Home examines the figurative crossroads along their scenic route north – that of lifelong friends and music makers continuing their push forward while their peers are buying houses and having babies. Call it something of a quarter-life crisis, though it's one they explore without ever getting too serious. That's most apparent on stage, where the energy is palpable and the fun contagious. Always locked in with a syncopation that can only stem from a long collective history, the band bounces from ballads to bangers with ease, leaving a lasting impression on any kind of audience in front of them.
The band is perhaps best defined through dichotomy: young but mature, curious but collected, accessible but substantial. Such balance is all too rare in this scene, but thankfully, Scenic Route to Alaska strikes it with a style all their own