Long Winter is the third proper full length from former Cambridge frontman Jesse LeBourdais and seems to be his fullest musical realization to date. While his previous solo releases have been folk-oriented acoustic endeavours,Long Winter utilizes a full band for the entire recording. The instrumentals on the album give it depth and dynamism without taking away from the rawness and passion in Jesse’s voice. Imagine early Against Me! meets Frank Turner for an idea of what Long Winter sounds like. It’s a fiery blend of honest folk music and stripped down rock‘n’roll.
There are plenty of parts of Long Winter that transparently expose Jesse’s fast skatepunk roots. "Breathing In/Breathing Out" sounds at times like an acoustic rendition of a NOFX tune. Lyrically, the song represents a recurring theme throughout all of Jesse’s releases – the importance of honesty and self expression.
“When I can stand up tall and scream my name into the dark. If I hear an echo, I’ll know I lived loud enough to be heard.”
Many of the lyrics on the album address Jesse’s love of music. Other themes include heartbreak, touring, loss of loved ones, as well as political and social commentary. Jesse covers a wide range of topics but his lyrics always come off as heartfelt and honest. This is one of the strongest points of the album, and a crucial aspect of any good folk-punk release. Just like a hardcore album needs that special indefinable element that makes it sound truly angry, a good folk album needs honesty and heart. Jesse has consistently achieved this since releasing The Worst Kind of Ambition in 2009, and its nice to see that the addition of a full band has not diminished the strength of the folk elements of his music.
Long Winter is composed of twelve tracks, most of them falling in between the three and four minute mark. The album maintains an energetic tempo throughout, without any noticeable drops in momentum despite some heavy lyrical themes. One of the strongest songs on the album is the final track. On "The First Time That I Screamed" Jesse reiterates his belief in the importance of music and the necessity of possessing some sort of expressive outlet. The song is also a denunciation of material possession in favour of experience, love and friendship.
“I never cared much for money in my life. It never seems to stick around. You can buy yourself a small piece of happiness but you can’t buy your way out of the ground. We’re all destined for mud, so act accordingly and hold onto the things you love.”
For most of us involved in the punk/hardcore scene, this is a verbalisation of feelings we are very familiar with. Listening to Jesse’s music is a welcome affirmation that we aren’t alone in this.
Folk-punk fans will find Long Winter to be welcoming and warm territory. Fans of conventional punk rock would do well in checking out this album when looking for something mellow to listen to, as Long Winter still has a firm grasp on traditional punk elements. Its also an album you can listen to with friends or family members who don’t enjoy aggressive music. Long Winter successfully strikes a balance between having diverse appeal and maintaining a focused core vision.
8.0 / 10
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