Review by Dom Vigil
Sometimes, you can just tell that an album is going to be incredible from just the first few notes, and New Design’s full-length, Far From Home is certainly one of those few releases. Having never listened to the Brampton, Ontario based quartet before, I was unsure of what to expect, but upon hearing the first beautiful moments of opening track, “When We Drown” and the following nine songs, it’s safe to say that I was blown away.
“When We Drown” is the perfect track to open Far From Home, setting the mellow mood right off the bat. The guitar work that opens the song is soaring and atmospheric, and once they come in, the vocals in this track are soothing and captivating. Coupled together, the echoing vocals and soft guitar work layered over thumping drums are absolutely stunning, and the song only seems to build and build as it progresses forward, eventually into the following explosive track, “I’ve Never Seen The Ocean.” The first thing that stands out about this second song is how heartfelt and emotional the vocals sound. You can really hear the power behind the song, especially in the group vocals as they belt, “It's too late/Her mind's set/I've never seen the ocean.” But even better yet is when the song mellows down into just the simple acoustic guitar picking alongside these vocals. “I’ve Never Seen The Ocean” is absolutely stunning, and the rest of the album just follows suit and progresses very naturally.
The focus of the third track, “There Is No Safe Place” is definitely in the sweeping guitar picking that carries the song, but the vocals that are layered over the instrumentals are beautiful as well. “There Is No Safe Place” grows similarly to “I’ve Never Seen The Ocean,” transitioning easily from the soft guitar picking into a bit, explosive full band sound. But that beautiful guitar work definitely isn’t lost even when the song explodes, and the outcome is incredible. By the time “There Is No Safe Place” crescendos, it’s obvious that New Design are masters at making a song come together and bloom. The tracks on this album are all beautifully crafted and seem to take on a life of their own, and that can be heard in all ten songs, not just the first three.
Transitioning easily once more, we move forward from “There Is No Safe Place” into “Relapse,” which serves as a gorgeous interlude, when then flows beautifully into the brighter track, “The Things We Can’t Forget.” Where the guitar work is a strong point in the first few songs, the drumming really takes the lead with this track, with a strong beat that keeps the song chugging forward, even coupled with soft guitar. This song feels particularly bright compared to the first half of the album, both because of the drum and guitar work, and the way that the vocals take on a more aggressive quality (or, as aggressive as New Design can get.) Much like “There Is No Safe Place,” “The Things We Can’t Forget” also crescendos and comes together beautifully, but not once does it feel like familiar territory. Despite similar songwriting patterns, each song stands out beautifully on its own, and this emotional track is no different.
“So Long” brings in the second half of Far From Home, and has a very atmospheric and floaty quality about it - something that the other songs definitely have, but it really seems to come to a head in this track. But then, “So Long” transitions into yells and group vocals, and does so flawlessly. At this point, the easy transition is unsurprising, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Simply put, the way that these songs progress is a work of art, and “So Long” is the perfect example of this. On top of that, the lyricism in this track is particularly strong, especially when the song makes the transition into group vocals that ring out in the ending line, “I know you know/I can't let go/Of your hands/Round my neck/I'll hold my breath.”
Rounding out the second half of the album are the final four songs, “Solaris,” “What We Already Knew,” “We Broke The Sun” and “Far From Home,” and New Design couldn’t have possibly chosen to end Far From Home in a better way. Instrumental track “Solaris” shakes things up a bit with quite possibly some of the best guitar work on the album. Alongside fast paced drumming, this song definitely takes on a different sound, but not without that same hazy, soothing quality as the rest of the album. “Solaris” really starts to bring Far From Home to a close, followed closely by, “What We Already Knew,” which is another change of pace, but more in the simplistic sense. This song winds things down a bit, showing us yet another side of New Design before the end, before transitioning perfectly into yet another (mostly) instrumental track, “We Broke The Sun.” Unlike “Solaris,” “We Broke The Sun,” is much more mellow and atmospheric, up until the end, where the band gets louder and louder and chanting vocals finally come in.
Bringing Far From Home to a strong close is the album’s title track, which completely encompasses what makes the entire album strong. Beautiful vocal harmonies kick off the song, followed by rolling drums and sweeping guitar, and when the song crescendos, it feels familiar, but welcome all the same. “Far From Home” is the perfect ending to a flawless release from New Design, and by the time the song comes to an end, I’m left wanting more. Not only is Far From Home beautifully written, it also feels cinematic when it finally comes to an end. New Design have completely mastered this release, and I can only begin to imagine what they’ll do next.
Listen to "So Long" or "I've Never Seen The Ocean"
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