After a handful of single releases, Marlene Oak has unleashed her debut album Northern Winds on the world. The album is a testament to her growth as a musician and the journey she has taken to get to this point. Over the years, she has been building her confidence with live gigs and opening for other artists. She is now stepping into the spotlight and doing so with a timeless sound full of life and honesty.
Drawing on some traditional musical influences and thinking, she has crafted her modern folk sound. While the album is full of her signature tone, she has collaborated with different songwriters. Working with others has added an extra maturity to the music that is wonderful to hear.
The album starts with ‘Black Rose’ which draws you in with this piano line and haunting strings. When Oak’s vocals hit, you are swept up by her smoky tones. Her vocals slink around you and draw you into the song. While melodically, the single seems to be simple there is a moment when it swings from light to driving and heavy. Your foot will be tapping to the beat of the melody as you are filled with the emotions of Oak’s vocals.
‘Will I Ever Learn’ has a more traditional folk vibe to the opening. There is a softer feeling to this song even as Oak’s vocals and the melody builds up power. While the song is softer, there is this sense of sadness and frustration threaded into it. This is clear in the lyrics, but the driving notes of the melody add to the frustration. The chorus of this song is really amazing as Oak’s vocals soar over you and you can’t help but get lost in her vocals.
Oak’s vocals are the first thing you hear on ‘I’m Sorry Mother’. The piano line below her vocals set an almost nostalgic vibe to the song that is enhanced by the airy floating tones that come later. This is a much sadder song than the others. You can hear the pain of the lyrics in Oak’s vocals. The emotions of this track well up in this slow manner than makes them hit even harder.
‘Lovesick’ has a more Americana vibe to the melody. Oak’s vocals also have a slight country feeling to them. The Americana vibe of the track is bolstered by the deeper backing vocals. This is a great addition to the song and just adds something to the story of the lyrics. The arrangement of the track is wonderful as you float along the melody as the lyrics tell you this story of letting someone go.
The next track is ‘Gone’ which brings some more folky softness to the album. The acoustic guitar creates this light melody that you can easily relax into. Oak’s vocals caress your ears as she gently works through the verses and gains power for the chorus. If you love older folk music, this is the song you will love on the album. There is just something about it that grabs your heart and does not let go.
The guitar line in the opening of ‘One Way’ sets a darker tone for this song. This is furthered by the lyrics which are not the happiest. There is also a pain and yearning within Oak’s vocals. The darkness of the track does fall to the side when you hit the chorus. There is a positivity in the chorus that makes you feel that you can move forward and focus on something better. Overall, this is actually a fairly motivating song.
The title track ‘Northern Winds’ has a completely different sound to the rest of the album. There is something infectious about this song that captivates you from the very first moment. You can easily sway to the music while Oak’s vocals infiltrate your senses and make you smile. This would be a wonderful travel song that you play as you drive down the long and winding road. The good vibes of this track make it amazing and leave you feeling uplifted.
The album ends with ‘Sailing Home’ which really shows the power of Oak’s vocals. The light melody resting below her vocals makes you think about the open water, but it is her voice that really gets you. There is something soaring about her performance that fills your chest like a balloon. It is a great way to end the album as you feel like you are coming home and she sets you down so lightly.
Marlene Oak balances traditional folk styles with more modern infusions for the utterly captivating Northern Winds. The album is full of airy notes and darker tones as she works through emotions that linger in your chest.