Review: Scout Island – Laurentian Voyage
National Music Reviews
Not Not Fun Records
Scout Island = Peter Buck + early/mid-era New Order + The Church
Once again taking up the moniker Scout Island, Jared Carrigan has released 19 beautiful guitar vignettes that make up the album Laurentian Voyage. The record was conceived in the north woods of Minnesota during Covid isolation, a place which was formative for Carrigan’s youth. Laurentian Voyage oozes memory and nostalgia, both for Carrigan in the making of the record and most certainly for the DNA of music lovers listening to it.
As a reviewer, I panic when I don’t have the lyrical and vocal elements to mold meaning out of a song. My anxiety boiled as I jumped into these 19 tracks. Carrigan masterfully uses nothing but a guitar, an active drum machine, organ, synths and bass. No song bleeds into the next, and each one of these vignettes fades out before the next starts anew. Each track has its own identity, and they burst out quick, gorgeous and thrilling like a 4th of July sparkler as they magically unleash involuntary memories to anyone who has spent their lives enjoying and consuming music.
So many things surface on Laurentian Voyage; so many things tickle the ear of music memory. For me, the album unfolds like a “Blue Monday” (New Order) that sounds “Just Like Heaven” (The Cure) “Under The Milky Way” (The Church), that hits like a Wave Of Mutilation (The Pixies). I fished out all these memories and more over the course of my listening. I’m not sure any of this was Carrigan’s intention, but it turned out to be my own Laurentian Voyage.
The record begins with “New Dawn” and ends with the sublime “Abundance of Life.” In between, Carrigan scatters songs that sound almost exactly like their title: “Downstream Glide,” “Heat Lightning,” “Wood-and-Canvas,” “Knife Lake” and “Effortlessly Floating.” Carrigan’s jangly guitar is reminiscent of when Peter Buck used to be the soul of early R.E.M. songs and Michael Stipe chose to just mumble. Buck’s guitar gave the songs depth, just as Carrigan does on Laurentian Voyage.
I have probably spent too much time explaining how this record feels to me and how slivers of sound brought back the musical memories of my past. Laurentian Voyage is a personal record for Carrigan. We will never know what these vignettes mean to him, but that’s not the point—memories are slippery and messy, and nostalgia is one’s own. Carrigan is just the conduit to our experience. On Laurentian, the musician uses simple instrumentation and a creative, expressive guitar that makes noises like a scrape of metal, an echo inside a fish tank or hollow tin can reverberations and form those noises into deep evocations. Listen to this record, pour some lemonade, sit under a gazebo during noontime summer sun and see what Laurentian Voyage pulls out of you. –Russ Holsten