The first thing you notice upon first listen to Shadowlands, the newest release from Minnesota’s Romantica, is the quiet and understated beauty and finessed compositional structures in the songwriting. This is the band’s fourth album and frontman/songwriter Ben Kyle has mastered a full-realized, lush sensibility in the songs he crafts for the band.
Starting with the opening track, “Let The Light Go Through You”, it’s a swirling, sweeping and yearning melody that is so complete, it’s an instant epic; this is serious, emotionally-pinching music made by thoughtful people. “Harder To Hear” is gentle – both in instrumental perfomance in Mr. Kyle’s vocal delivery and like the previous number, there is a religious-themed undercurrant; “Lonely Star” is a joyful surprise – a piece of country-pop in a clean, modern way but with a very traditional feel with dynamic harmonies on the chorus and “Here It Comes” is sweetly sad, with a heart-pulling series of pedal steel runs and an equally sympathetic, yet minimal, guitar solo. “Blue Heart” is another uptempo country-oriented number and lyrically has a feel of joyful abandon about the various reasons why you might love someone (!); “After The War” on its opening almost made me think of the melody of my beloved Big Star’s “Ballad Of El Goodo” (!) although this song is another fine exercise of country-skilled playing and a great tag line (“…do you leave it open wide? Do you leave a little hope inside – for happiness after the war?…”) and “Nobody Knows” is a classic country-tinged slow jam (!) that has an equally soulful flavor.
What makes this an even more enjoyable listen – for me – is that these are not short songs; the fastest last 3:14; the longest is 5:54 and the average is 4-plus minutes. There are fourteen tracks, which is a welcome return for a band not skimping on material. And it’s a mood piece – and for the way I’ve been feeling lately, this truly set the tone. So take Romantica’s Shadowlands to heart; it’ll be easy to make room.
Shadowlands will be released on Friday, February 10th, 2017