Gord Downie 'Away Is Mine': Posthumous solo album will leave you emotional with beautiful ambient soundscapes
‘Away Is Mine’ was recorded in the span of just four days in July 2017, three months prior to Downie's death
“You’re walking me to the door, Of what was it again?/ Oh the Hotel Worth?, Or to the Hotel Merit?/ A hotel with meaning, but I just don't understand/ I just live and do, congratulations to me or to you/ I'm a man, re-receive achieve then lose.” This is how Gord Downie’s final solo album ‘Away Is Mine’ opens for the listeners with the very first track titled ‘Hotel Worth’ before making you absolutely comfortable and numb with pumped kick drums and pleasant acoustic melodies in the rest of the album. The late singer, of course, did not plan it but he bids farewell with his seventh album.
Gord Downie was one of the legendary and prominent figures in Canada. He died at the age of 53 on October 17, 2017, after losing his battle with brain cancer. His final project is a follow-up to his previous posthumous album titled ‘Introduce Yerself’ which was released just 10 days after the renowned singer's death. ‘Away Is Mine’ was recorded in the span of four days in July 2017, three months prior to Downie's death.
Even though the singer-songwriter, who was also a part of the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, died three years ago, he made sure his music lives among us forever and his posthumous album ‘Away Is Mine’ knowingly or unknowingly does follow the same intention. The double album will make fans emotional due to the tragedy attached to it and especially when the album comes packed with 10 songs, each in two discs, which were co-written with the late singer’s frequent collaborator Josh Finlayson.
The first part consists of “electric mixed” songs whereas, the second part will balance the momentum with the acoustic version of the same songs. Everyone involved in the making of ‘Away Is Mine’ refers to it as “a gift", the magic of which has carried through the completion of the album over this summer 2020, including the creation of the original artwork by Clare Downie and Willo Downie, Gord’s daughters.
As mentioned in the very beginning, the album opens with the song called ‘Hotel Worth’ where the pleasant melodies will tease you with classic-rockesque riffs. The first 45-seconds of the song will take you to an ambient landscape and when Downie’s vocals kick-in, it feels as if we are floating above the mist.
‘Hotel Worth’ - Gord Downie (Official Video)
The second song from ‘Away Is Mine’ is very open and raw and has a dreamy electro-country feel. ‘Useless Nights’ will make you feel like you are watching an emotional episode of Netflix’s ’Bojack Horseman’ and you will probably go through the same emotions as well once you plug in to the song. The song delivers a sort of unsettling yet vibrant contrast.
‘Useless Nights’ - Gord Downie (Official Video)
‘I Am Lost’ actually does justice to the song title. The in-depth low-bass vocals will make you feel as if you are walking alone after getting lost for a few days or weeks and then you gradually getting used to it. The 2 minutes 26 seconds track is backed by very simple guitar tunes but entangled with complex feelings. ‘About Blank’ comes at a point in the album when you are already so low and emotional that you literally might want to stay with those feelings forever, but the track snaps with dance-pop energy to make sure you are still in the game. The lyrics go: "Come and gimme your gifts, come, let me take you down/ A phrase always remembered, forget in cruel happiness/ That even lovers drown, I’m in awe of no one / Anymore, I have none of your fear.” ‘About Blank’ comes with different energy and will surely cheer you up.
‘About Blank’ - Gord Downie (Official Music Video)
You have already tunnelled through so many emotions by now, thanks to the previous tracks, that you might end up with mixed feelings. But the next song ‘River Don’t Care’ will keep you at peace with smooth electric guitar riffs and the alt-country vocals of Downie will channel your inner balance. You might stay afloat in the same feeling with ‘The Least Impossible’ as Downie employs the electric guitar here as well. You might try connecting to it, however, by the time you do it, the song ends.
The sounds are definitely experimental and something which we rarely got to hear from Downie. ‘Traffic is Magic’ is one of our favourites from this project and definitely houses in our top three. The 2 minutes 25 seconds is a perfect radio song when you are driving down the hills while being mesmerised by majestic view on both sides of the windows. The name of the song does sound like as if Downie is killing the irony because instead of traffic, this song is surely made for the open roads but yes, it will save the headache in traffic for sure. Downie’s vocals weave magic and sound very different from what he sounds in the very first song of the album. The kick drums don’t go over the board and walk hand-in-hand with the soft electric waves.
‘Away Is Mine,’ the title track of the song sheds all the experimental sounds and takes you back to the soft rock era of the '80s. You would want to play this song on loop as the drum work with Downie’s little rough voice is exceptional. If you want to go further back in time with minimal music and vocals into the spotlight, then ‘No Solace’ is the song for you. With 2 minutes 18 seconds, the song is the shortest from disc one and before you get into any vibe, the song sadly ends. The synthesized percussion loop paired with a fat bassline does remind you of alternative rock songs and if you feel like it, you can skip it.
Last track from disc one is called ‘Untitled’ as if after swimming in the sea of emotions, Downie is trying to say he doesn’t know any longer who he is. ‘Untitled’ might feel like an emotional detachment, also because Downie is no longer with us. The organic sounds of the acoustic guitar sprinkled with atmospheric synths create a soundscape that might leave a few listeners conflicted and confused but then again it completely depends in what zone you are in at that point in time.
Disc two comes with the same songs with same titles and of course, the same lyrics in just a different avatar. An acoustic version of all the songs you heard on disc one will be here. Disc one seems apt with refined mixing and mastering, however, disc two feels a little under-produced. All the songs are surely raw but they lack the texture, which makes it a deal-breaker.
The acoustic half of ‘Away Is Mine’ features no fancy drum loops or bizarre experimental sounds and there’s nothing wrong with it. It is just Downie with his guitar and the best part is the words get sudden respect for space here. For us, only five singles stood apart in the acoustic version — ‘I Am Lost', ‘River Don’t Care', ‘The Least Impossible', one of our favourites here too ‘Traffic is Magic’ and ‘Untitled'. ‘I Am Lost’ could find dub-like buoyancy in naked acoustic blues and the lullaby ‘River Don’t Care’ carries a similar deceptive. For the easy-going groove, plug into ‘The Least Impossible’ and ‘Traffic is Magic’ and if you are looking for a bittersweet ending, then ‘Untitled’ is the track for you.
Talking about the recording process, Ben Rayner, one the respected music critics of the United Kingdom, mentions it on the official website of the late singer: "The pair knocked out 10 tunes on Finlayson’s phone and Gord’s laptop over little more than a week and that could have been that: a homespun, lo-fi DIY record in and of itself. But then Gord suggested they head to The Tragically Hip’s lakeside Bathouse studio and turn it into a real record with the help of in-house engineer Nyles Spencer, who’d proven himself something of a sonic savant during the sessions for Secret Path, Introduce Yerself and Man Machine Poem. And that’s exactly what they did over four days beginning on July 17, 2017."
To sum it up in a fewest possible words, Downie’s final solo album ‘Away Is Mine’ is an emotional culmination of all things beautiful. We may have lost the lead singer, the charismatic frontman of The Tragically Hip, a poet, an activist, an actor and one of the most celebrated men in Canadian pop-cultural history, but he unknowingly made his final solo album immortal.