Album review: Joana Serrat – Cross The Verge

Cross the Verge’s opening track, Lonely Hearts Reverb, begins with a beautifully haunting refrain. The percussion and ghostly choir become increasingly insistent but never overshadow Serrat’s delicate vocal work.

Saskatoon (Break of Dawn) follows a troubadour through a Canadian winter, with the heartbreaking lyric “saw the break of dawn in the snow/and I cried alone.” Again, simple instrumentation frames the vocals, most notably a strong pedal steel solo.

The pedal steel carries us through to the upbeat, but still tender, Cloudy Heart. Slowdive and Mojave 3’s Neil Halstead duets and, as with Emmy The Great’s Swimming Pool, the subtle male-female harmony makes for light and shade. This is the song that’ll stick in your head for days, but you won’t mind. After all, aren’t we all looking for someone to “want to be the light in your cloudy heart?”

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Later, Ryan Boldt of ‘prairie gothic folk’ band The Deep Dark Woods leads on Black Lake, which is sublimely deep and mournful until Serrat joins in to brighten the song.

Both with her words and her tender delivery, Serrat expresses hope that love can steal us from loneliness. You’re rooting for her wholeheartedly by Lover which opens with undisguised relief: “Lover/I’m so glad you came.” Variations on ‘love’ and ‘lover’ repeat over crashing vocals and that old faithful pedal steel.

The adjacent songs Tug of War and I Follow You Child are the ones you’ll want to hear live – upbeat and determined with trusty chord changes and, of course, pedal steel guitar!

Nevertheless, Solitary Road is the only archetypically Americana track, and compellingly so, with a subtle yodel and tender country twang over the pedal steel. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before a collaboration between Serrat’s and her Loose Music label mate, Danny and the Champion of The World’s Henry Senior Jr.

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Serrat sings “I am the queen of nowhere” on Solitary Road, but the album has a distinct and delicious Scandi aesthetic. Silence, shadows, snow, searching. It’s simultaneously wintry and warm; the perfect soundtrack to a winter retreat. It’s for late night drives and sleepless nights. Cross The Verge is an accomplished portrait of solitude; poetic and thoughtful rather than depressing, but looking to be warmed by a quiet, loyal love.

Wondering which part of Canada or Scandinavia Joana Serrat’s from? Spain!

Joanna Serrat’s Cross The Verge is out now on Loose Music.  

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