Opeongo’s New Single Is A Revival Of Alabama Shakes Emo Folk

by Ty Bennett

11th July, 2019

Toronto folk artist, Opeongo’s new song ‘Hopeless’ is pitched as a ‘modern mental health’ themed song. Although the entirety of the statement seems somewhat unclear at first glance, the latter theme reverberates in every note and word of this agonizingly haunting, delicate refurbishment of ‘emo’ folk.

‘Hopeless’ opens with an easy rhythm of keys, that progresses to added percussion in the final beats, allowing the instrumentals to meld together, adding and transferring the same emotional weight that is in the lyrics. Opeongo, or Keegan Trumpour, brings in his vocals with the opening lines, “My eyes are closed but I’m wide awake/I need some medicine to give or fake/in my dreams it seems I’m hopeless.” His unique vocal quality can only be likened to the distinct coarse sounds of Alabama Shakes’ vocalist Brittany Howard. Indeed, as the song moves on, flashes of electric guitar liken the genre of this track even more to the understated rock of Alabama Shakes. The hoarse screech on pivotal lines and drawn out high notes evoke a rawness and fear as if the lyrics are still painful to sing. Each note of the chorus seems wrenched from the writer’s own heart as he sings of heartache, loneliness, and desperation.

The highlight of the track is undoubtedly the incredible choir harmonies over an electronic guitar break that blazes twice in the song. There is an organic, rock meets folk approach to the melody and structure of ‘Hopeless’ – it grows in grandeur and instrumental vitality while maintaining the thudding three beat bass line. Perhaps this choice is a testament to the theme – moments of flight in the heartbeat key and percussion instrumentals are interspersed with feelings of fight in the electro-guitar solos. This is complimented by the quality of the vocals that is as important as the motif of hopelessness in the lyrics. These well thought out musical choices indicate an artist who is progressive, dynamic and undoubtedly talented. Perhaps that’s what he meant by writing that it is a song dealing with ‘modern mental health.’

Openogo’s debut album ‘Miasma’ is due for release in the coming months, and, if any signal can be taken from this single, it will be characterised by themes of change, heartache, and acceptance, written with a raw, almost tangible honesty.

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