Ski Lodge – Big Heart

written by: August 9, 2013
Album-art-for-Big-Heart-by-Ski-Lodge Release Date: August 20, 2013


The month of August, the closing gasps of summer, reads like a drive home as the sun sets. Gone are the long days at the beach and the even longer days on the road. Memories, the good and the bad, pass through one’s head like the mile markers whizzing by.

While the moniker Ski Lodge may contradict this basic visualization, sitting warm by the fire surrounded by the cold holds the same feeling of cleansing warmth that any autumn sunset can bring. It’s in this space that Andrew Marr, the voice and brainchild of Ski Lodge, kindles lush pop melodies and rich lo-fi indie compositions that mask a vulnerable songwriter’s troubled experiences to create a truly expressive work of music.

While the majority of press has focused on the band’s melancholic crooning and comparing its striking gloominess to the alternative’s favorite tragic hero Morrissey (“Does it Bring You Down” sounds like part two of “What Difference Does it Make?”), one cannot ignore the eerily fateful connection, even if by coincidence, to the other main man of The Smiths.

Perhaps one inherently compares Ski Lodge to The Smiths because Marr’s name instantly evokes Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, but both command unique approaches to create a signature sound.

Still, there is some merit to the comparison; on Big Heart, innate, jittery grooves lace slow-moving vocals in a quasi-uplifting kind of way. “Boy” sounds like it fits right in on a road trip or beach day playlist.

His playing is simultaneously contemporary and nostalgic, like many recent indie guitar outfits. You can hear Real Estate’s Days and Bobb Bruno’s guitar in Marr’s style, which may actually be a detraction to those looking for novel sounds, as similarities between Ski Lodge’s contemporaries may coalesce into confusion of identity.

While it is true that this sound has been explored heavily within the world of indie rock in the last five years, Marr has a wonderful gift when it comes to crafting pop-infused guitar melodies that merit his attempted individuality.

“You Can’t Just Stop Being Cruel” and “Anything to Hurt You” buoy about with such rich sound that either could merit the case for lead single; both are written with underestimated hooks that are sweet to the ear.

But Marr’s lyrical ability is as impressive as his compositions. His conflicted soul may come off as somewhat melodramatic, but pairs so beautifully with the bright colors of sound that are painted behind him that one can almost overlook the brood-and-gloom way Marr portrays himself.

It’s a refreshing dichotomy, as he simply and elegantly addresses parental failure, infidelity, and lost love, among other things. In standout track “Just to Be Like You,” Marr opens by uttering, “Oh, just to be like you/Is all I ever wanted to be/Scared and uncommitted to the truth/That’s what I thought I should be,” then contemplates the idolization of a failed role model with an almost casual air of tragedy.

The album’s closer, “I Can’t Tell,” stands out particularly from the rest of the album as Marr explores more quiet progressions of sound. A beautifully frank interlacing of piano and horn frame Marr’s now signature voice, as he closes his appeal to the listener quite appropriately. He sings over escalating sound, “No time to be mad, no time to be mad, I’ve given you everything.” It’s a striking moment of vulnerability and sincerity on an album that deals in these traits almost exclusively, yet feels refreshing and cathartic for both the listener and Marr himself.

Big Heart may be released in the final breath of this summer, but it certainly comes out swinging. Ski Lodge is poised to break out of Brooklyn to take up that lo-fi guitar mantle alongside the likes of Kurt Vile and Youth Lagoon, championing a sound based in the past but fresh to the taste today.

Marr may scowl and pout while he croons about but, armed with Big Heart, he is sure to be smiling inside.

Ski Lodge – Big Heart tracklist:

  1. “Anything To Hurt You”
  2. “Boy”
  3. “Looking For A Change”
  4. “Big Heart”
  5. “You Can’t Just Stop Being Cruel”
  6. “Dragging Me To Hell”
  7. “I Always Thought”
  8. “Does It Bring You Down”
  9. “Just To Be Like You”
  10. “Down On This Southern Tip”
  11. “I Can’t Tell”