We’re kicking off 2022 with what hopefully shall be our latest recurring feature – the “First Spin-First Impressions” series. The idea came after my recent review of “Strike Me Down,” the Whitehorse album that I was fortunate to find on vinyl here in the US back in December. With that “First Spin” of the vinyl on my turntable, I decided to jot down some thoughts as the album played, my “First Impressions,” if you will. Cue the lightbulb moment for this potential feature – a brief review of new vinyl purchases during their inaugural spin on the GDW turntable. I can’t promise to cover every album (slight, ahem, vinyl purchase addiction), but we’ll share our thoughts about some of the additions to our vinyl collection as the year progresses.
Where the Whitehorse album was my final vinyl purchase of 2021 (and led to our first article for 2022), “Quarantine Dream” from Torontonian Andrea Ramolo happens to be the first purchase for this new year, and is a perfect candidate to ‘officially’ debut this new feature. Released back in October 2021, and her first since “Homage,” the outstanding collection of Leonard Cohen covers album from 2018, “Quarantine Dream” finds Ramolo not only return to the spotlight, but does so with an absolute bang. Having already covered prior single releases from both the opening track “Dust,” and closing track “Free” on our pages last year, it was clear this album would meet our expectations – but having given this one a full spin just now, it is much more appropriate to state ‘exceeds’ all of our expectations.
I’m happy to go out on a limb and proclaim that “Dust” is the perfect choice to open this album, given that Andrea’s focus on human belonging and toxic love connections are frequent hallmarks of her songwriting and style. Indeed, “Dust” serves as a natural conduit to connect this new material to where her groundbreaking 2017 “Nuda” album ended – a place where emotions surrounding lost love dance with a little cynicism, and (as evident in “Dust”) are delivered in a unique seductive noir wrapping. I must add, however, that the placement of these ten new tracks across the entire record is also a work of art. The album is curated well, with a natural and organic progression between movements – my first uninterrupted listen taking me on a wonderful journey back through Andrea’s musical catalog, whilst simultaneously earning yet another short glimpse into this artist’s soul.
Those seductive noir elements creep into a few of these new tunes; delivered discreetly one moment (through the simple, yet somber bass tones of “Italian Summer”), and glaringly the next – as found throughout “Roadkill,” where the slight echo and fade from Andrea’s vocals are mated beautifully to the darker tones of the instrumentation. As for glimpses into her soul, Ramolo pushes her boundaries a little further, tackling (and sharing) some of her own personal issues – being single and childless (“Morning Glory”), being isolated and seeking to disappear (“Carousel”), and petitioning for the often-unheard cries of racism, sexism, sexual assault and women’s rights (“Free”).
Produced, mixed, and engineered by Sarah MacDougall at The Dream Ship, Andrea enlists many of her friends and peers from the music community (too many to list individually) to add their touches to this project. Whether inside the studio or behind the consoles, all contributors are stellar, and combine to create a truly beautiful audio experience. And fear not, the deep and dark subject matters are interspersed with some lighter moments, such as “My Way Home,” where Andrea temporarily returns to her Scarlett Jane folk-Americana roots – her vocal delivery softens to that of the ‘girl next door’ variety, amidst progressions and tempo shifts that hit all of the sweet spots on the music spectrum. And don’t skip past “End Of Time,” which for me stands out as a beautiful and much-needed moving ballad: “I will see you once it’s over / We’ll find solace in the silence of it all / We’ll come out of this much stronger / And I will let you hold me ‘til the end of / Let you hold me ‘til the end of / I will let you hold me ‘til the end of time.” This is a perfect ‘pandemic’ themed number, complete with soothing strings, and accentuated by some fabulous harmonies courtesy of Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac (Madison Violet). Stunning – in every way.
“Quarantine Dream” proves to be yet another outstanding offering from our favorite Canadian-Italian artist, and an excellent addition to the GDW vinyl collection. These tracks shine on this vinyl pressing, and I can only imagine how wonderful they shall sound live. Once we can move beyond this disruptive pandemic and return to some sense of life again (seeing friends, travelling with no restrictions or fears, and enjoying live music), a date with Andrea Ramolo at an intimate music venue is an absolute must for us. Please join me in raising a glass to such sentiments and the arrival of such times.
(Special thanks to GDW reader Mark C., who kindly insisted that we give this album a whirl.)
Photo Credit: Jen Squires