‘Epidemic Suggestion’ album review
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
Epidemic Suggestion, the debut album by Dilemma Season, is a solid 42 minutes of poetically-woven tunes with a strong sense of flow from track to track.
Dilemma Season is the studio project of Vancouver-based, self-taught musician Scott Hardy. On his website, Hardy lists a wide range of musical influences, from Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to Pavement, Yo La Tengo, and many other musical acts old and new. Dilemma Season’s songs meld a classic folk-rock solidity with an original indie spirit carried through fresh-feeling tonal progressions and expressive lyrics.
Epidemic Suggestion shines with its cohesiveness and track ordering. Each of the 10 songs transition smoothly into the next without melding indistinguishably, and the more rambunctious, country-infused tracks are bordered by softer counterparts, with every song opening fluidly on the heels of the last.
The album kicks off with “The Antagonist,” which immediately sounds more upbeat and lively than its title might suggest. Steady, rhythmic guitars, bass, and percussion back Hardy’s heartfelt yet well-tempered vocals about the enemies within oneself and one’s past. The song is also an introductory display of some clever lyrical composition that plays with rhyme and rhythm, such as the line “The fall and rise, a revised history of my own demise.”
My vote for highlight of the album definitely goes to the third track, “Train of Thought.” Musically and thematically, it’s a beautifully assembled blend of mood and message. Right from the opening pulses of drumbeat, the track fully evokes the feeling of riding the rails through a rustic countryside, an impression bolstered by agile guitar accompaniment as Hardy sings impassionedly of the illusive, empty appeal of capitalistic and media-driven lifestyles. Just like a train rumbling on relentlessly, the song builds momentum with each verse and chorus through layers of instrumentation and an increasing sense of being fed up with so many aspects of the modern world.
However, keeping to form, the next track “Reign of Fire” flows from the previous seamlessly, maintaining its lively swinging spirit while bringing in a stronger country flair—without any of the overblown cheesiness that I associate with country music.
Hardy’s skill with lyricism and imagery is evident again in the gentler, lilting “Broken Bridge.” The lyrics aren’t overtly, overbearingly picturesque, but the unassuming percussion and instrumentation—including jaunty touches of mandolin—effectively convey the wistfulness of “Sitting alone on a broken bridge/waiting in vain to see me again.”
Dilemma Season’s local flavour reveals itself in “The Queens of Dundarave,” its title naming the West Vancouver neighbourhood. This one’s a rollicking tune with boisterous, classic rock ‘n’ roll spirit, one that sounds almost like it could have skipped right off a ’50s or ’60s record.
“Not My Aim” is another track with a controlled balance of emotional intensity underlaid with staid resolve. Hardy’s vocals in the pre-chorus hint at rawness without being burdened by angst and heaviness, a balance he achieves again in the following song “Harm.”
The album ends with “Roots,” which is a strong choice as a closer. It’s a softer, sombre, utterly soulful track that prompts a deep contemplation of one’s past and one’s roots. The track’s moderately-paced five-minute length, with about a minute and a half of primarily instrumental denouement, makes it a fitting wind down to a keenly-assembled album.
Epidemic Suggestion is available for streaming on Spotify and can also be streamed and purchased through Dilemma Season’s website, www.dilemmaseason.com, where you can also find out more about Hardy and his creative endeavours.