The Great Lands Drop EP
Jordan Asher Armstrong is doing things his way. It’s more common than we like to pretend or romanticize as the case may be but nonetheless bears pointing out. The EP 1400 Piedmont from his project The Great Lands is the first of two short releases listeners can expect to hear in full over the coming months. Armstrong recorded the releases and, foregoing streaming services, made the Eps available via his website.
Opting to now pursue a more traditional avenue for making the material available isn’t any sort of concession, however. An artist wants people to engage with the work and, setting aside other issues, streaming platforms offer greater exposure than his personal website can. 1400 Piedmont deserves to be heard by the widest possible audience. It kicks off in a memorable fashion with “Down the Line”. The track accomplishes two things early – it establishes The Great Lands as a fiery musical unit further inflamed by Armstrong’s varied excellence as a lyricist.
His talents leap out in different ways. Many will notice his keen eye for detail, but there are important caveats. His discerning eye doesn’t report every image to the listener. Armstrong, instead, distills his songwriting message into key phrases and images. His writing is functional and rarely ornamental. The song’s lead vocals have a transformative effect on the work as well. There’s an all out embrace of the moment in the singing, no half measures, and it fills each line with a sense of urgency.
“Except Maybe Sometimes” is an excellent follow-up. The Great Lands continues invoking the sainted spirit of Neil Young circa the Zuma era and it isn’t mere mimicry. Armstrong’s streak of not producing a single clunker line on 1400 Piedmont continues and varying the song’s musical thrust while echoing its predecessor helps cohere the release. Rock fans will appreciate the guitar sound The Great Lands achieves here and elsewhere.
The bell-like chiming of jangling guitars gives “Jumper” a lot of its color. It’s a surging and incandescent track bursting with well-timed emotional high points and dramatic shifts in the arrangement. Sometimes seeing those turns coming from a mile off doesn’t dilute their effect because The Great Lands executes them so well. There are several priceless couplets scattered throughout the song, but the lyrics are an overall highlight.
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“Lonely Houses” will pain anyone who has endured a traumatic breakup – divorce or otherwise, even death. It has an affable nature, The Great Lands has a gregarious sound that invites listeners inside, but there’s no doubt Armstrong’s songwriting wears its heart on its sleeve. Closing with “One More Night (Queen)” is the EP’s first single and a tone-setter in that role. The Great Lands are aspiring towards the anthemic with the song, particularly given its chorus-first rave-up, but the effort isn’t entirely successful. Some listeners’ reactions will be mixed. The camp favoring a more time-honored songwriting style may struggle with this cut.
It’s impassioned and well-played, if nothing else. Others, however, will go all in on the back of the rugged grace it builds from the beginning onward. The crashes and collisions between instruments in the song’s opening foreshadow a final reckoning for Armstrong. He slips out of bad luck’s hand enough during “One More Night (Queen)”, however, to live and love another day. Victory comes with a price for The Great Lands but Jordan Asher Armstrong’s songwriting pays its debts in full.