Norine Braun’s new record Through Train Windows gives the listener a glimpse into the singer-songwriter’s world, full of heartfelt stories and interesting melodies.
What’s a better way to get inspiration for an album than taking a 6000 kilometer train journey? Norine Braun did exactly this, crossing Canada on a ‘Riding The Rails’ tour, where she could be influenced by the ever changing scenery, and revel in no wifi as a distraction. Entitled Through Train Windows, the record uses rock, blues and country to portray its messages, and changes rhythms and styles up frequently to keep things interesting.
Sleeping Buffalo starts off the record with serene acoustic guitar, perfectly supporting Braun’s weathered but knowledgeable vocals. She sings of purposefully searching out solitude to contemplate life and figure things out in her head: “up the sacred path, no one knows where I’m at”. A heavy bass drum saunters in against guitar, giving the track a more mystical feel as harmonica brings it back to its country routes. Bob Dylan-esque word play and singing styles flit in and out, but Braun’s fleeting extended notes and perfect key make the track distinctively hers.
I’m going Home begins with oldskool roots/blues mentalities before drums enter and change the track into a country/pop rocker with a strong melody. It’s fun and frivolous, and as if Braun’s train journey has suddenly brightened up.
Exhale revels in a floaty atmosphere against a leading bass riff persistent in pushing the track forwards. Braun’s vocals shine in this style as electric guitar dips in and out to give the track that something different, and a centrepiece for the listener to focus on. Heading Up North’s emotional turmoil and vivid imagery put the listener front and center to a story based track that never falters to impress, whereas Rock The Rolling gives us something different with a fast-paced drum beat, 80s jazz sax and spirited vocals with off-beat melodies. It’s a really interesting effort with sections of spoken vocals that bring up the record as a whole.
Rue St Jean keeps the sax jamming on against a soul beat with ska connotations. Once again, you can hear Braun having fun, and it’s testament to the train journey she took that has opened her mind. Heaven Only Knows uses the singer’s thoughts of the past as a basis with nods towards Joni Mitchell vocally and musically. The distant, reverb-laden guitar really brings the track to life as it whales against a gentle piano riff in a magical way.
The record ends with album-titled track Through Train Windows. It’s a funky blues effort, reflecting on the entire album as Braun’s epic journey, both metaphorically and physically, comes to an end. Her vocals are almost Kate Bush-esque as the verses use an interesting melody, before being pulled back to straight-up blues for the choruses. Once again she toys with spoken word and pulls off in an emphatic way.
Through Train Windows is a journey through the Braun’s mentality. It’s littered with the sights, sounds and actions that she perfectly puts into lyrics in an interesting and vibrant way. Just before you think the album will settle into one style, it mixes things up, allowing the singer to be one step ahead of everyone, and keep the listener intrigued and with a smile on their face. Many artists would fail to make a coherent record with so many ideas flying round, but Braun manages to control the record, mainly due, I think, to the emotion and real feelings coming from her focus on a real life adventure. It’s a mesmerizing album and a trip that everybody should take.
By Jamie Parmenter