Canadian lo-fi indie troubadour relocates across the globe and releases a very promising solo debut album.
In 2019 Dave Helgi Johan left his hometown in the small Icelandic community of Gimli, Manitoba, Canada and relocated to Byron Bay in Australia. Since then he’s been travelling and touring around Australia in his van, doing his solo shows in clubs, pubs and cafes, playing various covers while road-testing his own songs. While he’s been living the troubadour life he’s also had the wherewithal to record, ‘Drumheller’, his debut album.
He wrote and recorded the album where he could: some of it was done in the van, some of it in a hostel dorm room when he was locked down during the pandemic, and some of it in a wagon at The Arts Factory in Byron Bay. He played every instrument on the album, sometimes having to borrow different instruments from friends and other musicians to fill out the tracks. It’s not been an easy process but without a doubt, it’s been a labour of love.
Despite the challenges he’s faced, with ‘Drumheller’, Helgi Johan has created a debut album that deserves to find a much wider international audience. With its stripped-down lo-fi approach, the nine-song album feels like it owes something to the 1990s, with shades of Daniel Johnson, Vic Chesnutt, Neutral Milk Hotel and even early, slightly less rocky, Guided by Voices or, especially in Helgi Johan’s vocals, Doug Martsch’s Built to Spill. Alongside the usual guitars, bass and drums, there’s a range of acoustic instruments across the album including banjo, harmonica, melodica and more, that help bring it closer to a more typical Americana sound. But the other thing that jumps out on ‘Drumheller’ are some killer pop hooks that bring to mind no less than Robert Smith and The Cure – check out ‘Firefly’ or ‘Second Chance’ and make up your own mind. Helgi Johan also shares with all those esteemed artists mentioned above, a knack for funny and insightful lyrics. “I’m sorry I told you I loved you – I’m sorry I passed out on you – I’m sorry I made fun of your glasses – They’re not so bad.”
This is a really good, and catchy album. It’ll be intriguing to hear what Dave Helgi Johan can cook up next.