Review by Brian McGowan
Release date: 12 May 2014
It’s all about fashion rather than taste, isn’t it? Bjarne Langhoff‘s Safe Distance, one of the better Westcoast Rock albums to be released in recent years, can’t find a label. It seems that artists in this genre don’t even register a blip on mainstream rock radar nowadays. And yet, simply slapping on a ‘westcoast’ label does it a grave injustice. There’s much more to it than that.
Langhoff’s distinctive musical recipe is strongly reminiscent of a peculiarly adult style of rock, freshly minted by Patrick Leonard and Richard Page and their band Third Matinee, back in 1994. An elegant musical panorama, filled with hints of melancholy, eminently melodic. Mimicking that band’s only album, Meanwhile, it’s as sophisticated as Prog (Silence), as sinuously catchy as Pop (Hollywood) and as subtly evocative as Westcoast Rock (All Day Funny). Most other tracks are impossible to categorise, characterised only by Langhoff’s ability to balance cool and crisp arrangements with the warmth of his tunes and the tenderness of his lyrics.
Like the title track, where the hushed tones of this short but beautifully orchestrated piece, led by a phlegmatic piano, gradually gain in volume and momentum, closing out in 40 seconds of breathy chorale harmonies, reprising the cinematic ‘Hollow Soul’s backing vocal hook. It’s clearly the album’s centrepiece, but comes late in the game, understandably leaving pride of place upfront to the more accessible tracks, like ‘We Made Our Mistakes’, a sepia-tinged snapshot of relationship breakdown, and ‘Jesus Through The Light’, a wonderfully melodic, Mr. Mister/ Chicago-esque tech/rock masterclass.
At 36 minutes – including an additional edit of ‘We Made Our Mistakes’ – you might feel short changed, but each and every track is worth its weight here. It took Langhoff two years to record Safe Distance, and you can tell.
8 out of 10
- We Made Our Mistakes
- Jesus Through The Light
- New Mexico
- All Day Funny
- Hollow Soul
- Safe Distance
- We Made Our Mistakes (Radio edit)