If Northcote’s last album embodied the feeling of movement, flight and change, their most recent release, Let Me Roar epitomizes sitting still, settling in, staying awhile. Northcote is the moniker of Matt Goud, former Christian punk rocker turned American folk artist. Despite being written and recorded pre-Covid, this album drops at a time when many of us are leading more sedentary lives than we are accustomed to. And there can be a lot to face when you’re forced to slow down and just exist where you are. From the repeated refrain, “now I’m like the dust on the dash” in the album’s title track, to the quiet defiance embodied in the chorus of the feel-good anthem ‘Guys Like Us’ – “we don’t say nothing but we say a lot, just being right where we are” – the whole album feels like the peaceful acceptance of a man settling into who he is at this point in his life.
Though Let Me Roar is only a tight 30 minutes, it unfolds like an emotional passage of self-discovery, culminating in the final song ‘Freedom’, a catchy and melodic song of release, which Goud has described as an “exhale from a heavy duty process.”
If you’re not familiar with Northcote’s stuff, try to picture the lyrical sensibility and musical stylings of Gillian Welch, as performed by a young Bruce Springsteen. No stranger to the singer-songwriter, folk rock genre, Let Me Roar is Northcote’s 4th full length album. When asked about his biggest influences, Goud cites singer-songwriter Chuck Ragan and alt rock band Wilco, and you can definitely hear the rock influence in songs like ‘Streets of Gold’ and the crunchy guitar solo on ‘Keep On Saying Goodbye’.
“I can’t be someone that I’m not,” Goud sings in the Conor Oberst-esque ballad ‘Dancers and Queens’. Goud recorded this album following an educational retreat on Gabriola Island, BC. He decided to embark on the retreat to clear his mind after a period of personal difficulty, and at the end decided to linger on the Island with some friends. He slowed down, stopped where he was, stayed in a cabin in the woods, and wrote and recorded an album reminiscent of this exact feeling. The album’s vibe is intentionally that of sitting around the fire, having a few beers, and shooting the shit. Tracks such as ‘Guys Like Us’ and ‘Held My Hand’ encapsulate this feeling with lyrics about friendship and casual, catchy refrains.
This album will feel familiar to folk fans, but don ’t mistake this for all Goud has to offer. For eight years, Goud’s primary project was that of being lead songwriter and vocalist in Christian post-hardcore band, Means. Goud rocked hard in Means and it is impossible not to imagine the potential that could exist in a future Northcote album, on that integrates some hardcore elements.
This album is pleasant, like sitting around a fire with an old friend, but after a couple of listens, one starts to wish he hadn’t totally walked away from his hard rock roots and could use it to add a little more punch to the sentiment.