Sometimes a truly great song can save your Saturday. The following is based on a true story.
Imagine this. It’s been snowing for days on end. Every morning before work you shovel snow for an hour and every day after work, you do the same. But it snows all the time, so this becomes labor that has very little effect on how your yard looks or how easy it is to back out of your driveway. This is Finland for you this time of the year – pretty harsh, right?
Well, harsh enough even without making the mistake of placing the face powder you got for your wife from the store in the backseat, next to your dog, who somehow miraculously gets the bloody thing out of the box (which is so hard to open even Houdini couldn’t manage it). So, by the time, you get out of the car and open the back door, you realize that the back of your car (including the headliner) is completely redone with a color called ”Silky Touch Blush.”
If you have ever found yourself in a situation even remotely similar to this, you know how much you dread going back to the car to clean it up; perhaps, even more than taking the half-eaten face powder home to your wife. Oh, and remember, it’s dark, freezing and the snow is hitting you left and right.
However, even a hopeless job can sometimes turn into something quite enjoyable, something you want to put some extra time and effort to – especially if somebody sends you a song that’s so good you can listen to it on repeat long enough to get the job done. And that’s what happened to me when I was sitting in my car wondering where to start. I received an email from a fan of Apostle, telling me I needed to check out this new British artist from London; so I did. The song was called “Dakota Thunder Rising” and it was very, very good indeed.
The beginning of the song has a rather mysterious atmosphere to it. This is mostly created with what sounds like a pedal-steel guitar wailing over an acoustic guitar. All this is supported with soft bass and very subtle beat. The cool thing about this track is that even when the vocals kick in, you are not quite sure what genre of music you are listening to. Country? Folk? The beginning of the tune reminds you a little of Paul Simon or Gene Clark of the Byrds, which is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it's a great thing.
But seriously, I find this a very refreshing way to start a song. So many artists these days pack all their hooks in the first thirty seconds of their new track to get picked for playlists or radios. It's no secret that folks in charge of those usually make up their minds about which tracks to feature based on that precious half a minute. Consequently, fewer and fewer artists put effort in building their songs in any meaningful way anymore – once you have heard the beginning, you've basically heard the track. Sure, the producers try to save these tunes by adding surprising breaks and cool sound effects as well as by bringing instruments in and out of the mix when you least expect it. The only problem with this approach is that everybody's doing the exact same thing, so you grow numb to the effect and it becomes as predictable as the sun rising. This, however, is not the case with Apostle. What he is offering with “Dakota Thunder Rising” is a brilliant pop song that keeps building all the while (and to a place we need it to go), taking a moment here and there as if to gather strength, so it can hit us full steam smack dab in the middle with the final chorus.
This is powerful stuff – bona fide pop with strong vocals but very inventive at the same time. Check out the nice interplay between the singer and the bagpipe-type of guitar riff in the chorus. Awesome! Producer Dan Brown really does a great job with the arrangement as well as coming up with the rights sounds for “Dakota Thunder Rising.” What’s impressive here is that Mr. Brown somehow manages to keep the track in the same mood musically from start to finish – not necessarily very easy if you want the song to have a big chorus.
Having said that, the ultimate strength of this track lies in the fact that it is an incredibly well crafted song. The melody is very compelling, each section leading seamlessly into the next, and the stripped-down middle eight that’s reduced to the chant “as I rode along the Mayflower” is a great way to make the final chorus explode – Apostle is clearly a very talented songwriter. So good in fact, that I find myself disappointed that there isn't more material to listen to on Spotify – or perhaps that's a good thing since the lyrics of the song take a little bit longer to decipher than the melody and the production.
The intriguing thing about “Dakota Thunder Rising” is that its lyrics are slightly different from the ones I have previously covered in this blog in that they are esoteric (hence the reference to Gene Clark). They don't necessarily tell a story but rather use allusions to convey meaning.
I am Dakota thunder
Beyond the edge of reason
In the cold winter hour
Of every season
The imagery here is outstanding. Describing your personality or what you are going through in life by comparing it to Dakota weather is an interesting choice, especially given the fact that Apostle is British, but it works extremely well. However, there’s more; the song is filled with enticing lines, such as “My name is but a whisper” and ”Threw it all away in the dying day.” Since I’m sure the mention of the “Mayflower” in the song signifies a new beginning, then perhaps it’s safe to assume that “the dying day” here refers to a rebirth as a person rather than an actual death.
Be that as it may, these are lyrics you know you’ll be returning to from time to time. And just like all good poetry, they’ll take on a slightly different meaning each time you do. Depending on what’s going on in your life, they will either root you on or comfort you at a time of need and what’s more, they’ll make you realize with their images of “cold hollow fall” and “Dakota thunder” that there are scarier things in life than a half-eaten box of face powder and an upset wife – in most cases at least.
Check out the official music video of “Dakota Thunder Rising.
You can learn more about Apostle here:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.