New Scandinavian Americana with a slice of melodic jangle-pop.
‘Are We There Yet?‘ is the third collection from Norwegian duo Windmills and Giants. They cite influences such as Jason Isbell and Iron and Wine, and claim (rightfully) that this album represents a step forward for them sonically.
There is a lot to like here. The songs are uniformly well written and constructed, and mostly up-tempo (refreshing and not so common in the Americana field). Choruses burst through, uplifting and singalong, as any good chorus should be. Harmonies and double-tracked vocals lend interest. The songs are predominantly in that sweet spot of length, never exceeding four minutes. Lyrics are both natural-sounding and carefully honed.
There are touches of phased effects, treated vocals and synth-driven sounds throughout, but these are used sparingly and tastefully, with jangly, arpeggioed electric guitars providing the main soundscape, while occasional solos sear through. With the youthful male vocals kept fairly subdued and low in the mix, this gives the collection a slightly indie-pop sound, although with markedly more sheen than their previous recordings.
To answer their titular question, ‘Are We There Yet?‘, however, the answer may be “not quite yet, but you are going in a really great direction”. In terms of tracklisting, which admittedly in the streaming age may be less important, there are too many songs of a similar sonic feel. Minor key mid- to up-tempo pop/Americana songs abound, all good on their own, but too many and the overall sound starts to lack variation. The very brief final track, humorously acknowledged as slightly off-kilter in its title (‘Evan Finds The Hidden Track’), actually does show a different side, injecting space into the music as well as a moody slide guitar part. Meanwhile, the jovial clip-clop rhythms of ‘All’ and ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Co-Dependency’, make the case that a few more major key songs might be welcome.
This is the sound of a band finding its feet, learning how to express itself through its songs and recordings, and is generally a really enjoyable listen, which benefits from repeat plays. There are many songs which would sound at home in the car or on the dance floor. It is easy to imagine this music holding its own on a playlist with much more established acts, and the album represents a solid forward move in Windmills and Giants musical journey.