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Album Review: Tough Luck

Scenic Route to Alaska
Tough Luck
Revolver Distribution Services

Edmonton’s favourite folk trio Scenic Route to Alaska have released a 10-track masterpiece that will take you on an intense ride through the exhausting yet wonderful mess we call life.

Similar to previous projects, Tough Luck touches on a wide range of existential themes from taking risks to navigating the complexities of love to remaining hopeful about the future. As suggested in the title, the album is a journey of coming to terms with the fact that shit happens. There’s a uniquely conflicted feel to the tracks as they explore the harsh realities of love and loss, whether it’s romantic or more abstract versions of the elusive emotion.

The very first track (“How It Feels”), in combination with its music video, kicks the album off on a bit of a restless note. The sharp guitar riffs and bold drum beat come together to accentuate the anxious frustration expressed in the vocals. The subsequent tracks, “Ghost of Love” and “All These Thoughts” continue along this vein with catchy, relatable hooks and a steady decrease in tempo. The lyrical contents of these opening tracks are made powerful by the furious instrumentals — but even without the lyrics you get a taste of that familiar feeling of searching for something but not quite finding it.          

The halfway point of the album is pivotal with its shift to a slower, ballad-like style reflecting a low point in the journey of self discovery. A cross between “Love is the Ocean” and “Younger” from their last album, lead singer Trevor Mann manages to make “Lonely Nights” heartbreaking yet beautifully forward-looking. Sentimental lyrics like “Love is running away” and “I don’t want another drink, I just want another kiss,” are perfectly highlighted by keeping the instrumentals to a minimum and placing Mann’s soothing drawl in the spotlight. There’s a sense of longing in his voice that leaves you on the verge of tears but doesn’t quite let the tears fall.

Shifting into the excessive guitar riffs and slightly angsty lyrics of “Slow Down” immediately after the tenderness of “Lonely Nights,” the second half of the album serves as a reminder that life does get better. Hooks like “Everybody’s telling me to stop, take a breath, and slow down” and “Time just wants to run away, we don’t let it” impart the age-old wisdom that the right balance of patience and rebellion is the key.

Once the album gets to “Better Days,” the band’s homesickness becomes apparent and the exploration of the previous tracks takes on a more personal, introspective meaning. Making use of an instrumental recorded in their 2014 album Warrington, the song is an ode to the band’s Alberta roots. It brings a much needed upbeat tempo to the project and is a fitting lead up to the final track’s short and sweet message: to “take those lonesome thoughts, (and) leave them behind.” It’s a pleasant ending to the album that leaves the listener with a kind of serenity that’s somewhere between closure and wanting a little bit more.

Tough Luck is a great listen for long-time fans and new listeners alike. It’s an honest look at how we are all just trying to find that balance between our relationships, ambitions, and everything else life throws at us.

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