Published Sep 25, 2015On Matt Goud's third album under the moniker Northcote, it's evident that the Victoria-based musician has left the lion's share of his punk influence behind and fully embraced the slide and rust of country and folk. Yet on Hope Is Made of Steel, a dusty haze of violin solos and songs about Wyoming, Goud makes a conscious effort to set an urgent tone with palm-muted power chord progressions, at least one thumping drum intro ("Bitter End") and blunt lyrics.
The ten-track effort plays as a Springsteen-esque beacon of optimism and resilience for the everyday struggle. Self-affirming track titles often plead with the listener to remember that you are "Stronger Than You Know," "You Could Never Let Me Down" and, of course, that "Hope Is Made Of Steel." Goud's message is unshakably positive, and to his credit, he writes songs that are specific to his time and place. Songs like "Bitter End" and "Leaving Wyoming" have an earnest Sun Kil Moon quality of laying all one's cards on the table.
Too often, Goud struggles to consolidate his direct approach to songwriting with the benefits of metrical lyricism, making for awkward rhyme schemes, especially on the bridge for "Just Kids," when Goud sings, "All our friends seem to have it all together / But it's only an illusion of material things." In a moment that has the potential to possess so much potency, Goud tosses a cluttered lyrical curveball that dilutes the otherwise powerful message.
Make no mistake: Goud has a knack for delivering towering country choruses. His hooks, paired with the skills of producer Dave Genn (54-40, Matthew Good Band), combine for an album that soars with an uplifting theme, an accomplishment even if his lyrics lack the necessary gravity. (Black Box)