Bathgate's Salt Year Is Dark, Introspective and a Winner

Written by  Published in Album Reviews Thursday, 07 April 2011 13:00

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It’s been a rough ride for Ann Arbor-based alt-folk crooner Chris Bathgate. On his fourth record, Salt Year, which is a title that the singer uses to describe the time of personal tumult that transpired during the writing and recording of this album. However, the darkness of this album is a refreshing dose of raw honesty where he bares his soul for the world to hear, and for that, has a record that is universally relatable.

The album starts off the dark “Eliza (Hue).” The song is very brooding, with heavy blues riffs layered with a haunting string section and a piano. You can feel in the intensity of where the album is headed after this one track. Bathgate’s vocals sound crisp and the singer stays well within himself and the song to allow for the music to be the star of this track. On instrument-driven tracks, sometimes a singer can overcompensate but Bathgate does a terrific job letting the music guide you and letting it tell more of a story than his lyrics can on this particular tune.

Next up is “No Silver,” that continues with the folky path, which the foundation was laid for on the opening track. This tune combines elements of folk (big surprise), Americana and alt-rock, the sound that made Mumford & Sons popular. This slice of Americana-roots music is a well-written song. Like the rest of the songs on the record, the lyrical theme of darkness and alienation that comes across so beautiful that you don’t know what hit you due to Bathgate’s intense, acidic lyrics.

“Fur Curled On The Sad Road” is a lot heavier than it’s predecessors. Stacked with intricate drums, plucking/haunting riffs and an overall ominous tone, Bathgate takes the listener on a different path here and shows the range of his songwriting, invoking memories of The Band (think “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down”). While he remains true to the elements of the album that steer it too of course, “Levee” is a reminder to the listener that they too can be challenged within a certain genre of music and thus, isn’t bored by the monotony of an album of simple alt-folk tracks.

Overall, Salt Year is a solid effort from the troubadour. While he doesn’t stray too far from a particular songwriting formula, he stays within his comfort zone to create an album that is definitely worth a listen.

The album will be released on Quite Scientific Records on April 26 and will be available at all major retail outlets. After a month-long tour starting in Canada in February and culminated with several SXSW appearances, the singer will be gearing up for a short run in Michigan at the end of April. Check his website for more info.
Last modified on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 18:45
Daniel Kohn

Ever since he first heard the opening chords to "Smells Like Teen Spirit," at the age of 11, Daniel Kohn has been hooked on music. Born in New York City, raised in the music hotbed of Long Island and currently residing in Los Angeles, Kohn has been writing since high school, when he realized he could get CDs for free. He's a sucker for '90s music, especially that from Seattle. Like a small minority of Americans, he likes football of the European variety, especially Liverpool. When he's not chasing down bands, you can find him at your local pub with a pint of Carlsberg, usually at ungodly hours cheering on his beloved Reds. 

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