Favorite Hippies-Northern Skies.

Release Date: ‘28th’ March 2020.

Album Of The Week.

Just over four years after the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album Love is Hard in early 2016, Favorite Hippies,  who are one of the top Swedish alt-rock and Americana bands, returned with their much-anticipated and long-awaited third album Northern Skies. It’s been available to stream and download since early 2020. However, on the ‘28th’ March 2020 Northern Skies will be released on vinyl and showcases the considerable talents of the Favorite Hippies. They’ve come a long way in just ten years.

In 2010, guitarist, songwriter and charismatic frontman Örjan Mäki found himself with some free time between his regular gigs. That was when he decided to found a side project that became the Favorite Hippies.

Back then, Örjan Mäki who is from Kaunisvaara, in the far north of Sweden , was already a familiar face in the vibrant Swedish scene. The talented, inventive and versatile roots guitarist was a member of the renowned  Willy Clay Band and had already played alongside artists like Chip Taylor, Doug Seegers and Will Kimbrough.  Although he enjoyed being part of a band and working as a sideman, Örjan Mäki wanted to develop and showcase his skills as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. That was when he hit on the idea of a founding a new band, and the Favorite Hippies was born.

In the new band, Örjan Mäki was able to take centrestage, playing lead guitar and took charge of  the vocals. He was already a gifted songwriter and when he sang, he became a storyteller who painted picture with his lyrics. Meanwhile, the rest of the Favorite Hippies proved the perfect foil for him as they combined disparate musical genres including alt-rock, Americana and roots rock. The new band were on their way.

Three years after founding the Favorite Hippies, they released their debut album Sidekick Stories in 2013, on Rootsy Records. It was released to critical  acclaim and great things were forecast for the band.

They headed out on tour to promote Sidekick Stories. However, not long after the release of Sidekick Stories, the Favorite Hippies decided to relocate, and headed to rural idyl just outside of Stockholm. This resulted in a change in the band’s lineup. For many bands, this could’ve proved disastrous, but the Favorite Hippies regrouped and became a stronger and tighter band.

By 2015, this new lineup of the Favorite Hippies were ready to record their sophomore album.They had honed their sound by touring and were more than ready to lay down the tracks that became Love Is Hard. 

When the Favorite Hippies released their much-anticipated  Love Is Hard in early 2016, it was to the same critical acclaim as their debut Sidekick Stories. Critics and fans agreed that the album was well worth the wait, and were looking forward to the followup.

After the release of Love Is Hard, the Favorite Hippies headed out on the road to promote the album. They were now used to touring and doing the hard miles as they traversed Sweden, Denmark and Finland promoting Love Is Hard which was hailed as their finest album to date.

When the Favorite Hippies returned to the studio to record the followup to Love Is Hard, the lineup included the tight and talented rhythm section of Zacharias Ahlvik and bassist Morgan Korsmoe. While Örjan Mäki played lead guitar and took charge of lead vocals, his nephew Johan Mäki. They form a formidable partnership on  Northern Skies which wasn’t the easiest album to record.

It took a while before the Favorite Hippies were happy with the sound of the nine songs on Northern Skies. Forever the perfectionists, their perseverance and dedication was worthwhile and resulted in a career-defining album.

There’s something for everyone on the Favorite Hippies’ carefully crafted third album Northern Skies. It was released to earlier in 2020, and finds the Favorite Hippies switching between and fusing disparate genres. The majority of these genres’ roots are in the deep South.  

They’re part of what’s an eclectic collection of songs from a tight, talented, rocking band who in the space of nine songs switch between alt-rock, and sentimental sounding classic country to guitar driven Southern Rock to R&B and roots music which is the basis for the album.

Örjan Mäki explains: “All our songs still derive their common ground in roots music from the American south. I bet you all can quite easily figure out who our musical heroes are. This is just our interpretation of their legacy; American roots music in a Northern Scandinavian fashion. I’ve reached that certain age where you find a soothing self confidence to write music and stories that you’d like to listen to yourself, I simply don’t have to please anyone else..If i felt like quoting Joe Hill in a raging outcry, or singing a melancholic story about a father and his grown-up son, I’ve just gone all in and let it end up on the same record. And this time around we’ve definitely let the lyrical content guide the musical vibe of each and every song.”

Favorite Hippies kick loose on the album opener In The Back Seat Of A Beat Up Ford Back In Nineteen Seventy Eight. They’re a tight talented group who have done the hard miles over the last ten years, and from the opening bars seamlessly combine good time rock ’n’ roll,  Southern Rock and Americana. There’s more than a nod to the Rolling Stones, while  frontman Örjan Mäki sounds uncannily like Neil Young in his prime on one of the best tracks I’ve heard in a long time. It sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

The tempo drops on Speak Of Peace, as a harmonica and acoustic guitar combine before Örjan Mäki showcases his skills as a songwriter and storyteller. His vocal is lived-in and emotive as he paints picture with the lyrics. Meanwhile, the rhythm section anchor the arrangement as the wistful harmonica and guitar on this melodic and memorable song.

It’s all change on Tears In Her Tip Jar, which is a beautiful and heart-wrenching country ballad. Örjan Mäki who again, sounds like Neil Young in the seventies, delivers the sentimental and cinematic lyrics. Meanwhile the rhythm section, jangling piano and weeping pedal steel provide the perfect backdrop to a track that tugs at the heartstrings and sounds as if it was recorded in Nashville, not Sweden.

Pick and Strum was rebased as the lead single from Northern Skies. It’s a jaunty sounding fusion of Americana and country about a reluctant soldier. All he wants to do is Pick and Strum, which the Favorite Hippies do with aplomb on what’s one of the album’s highlights.

The tempo drops, on the moody, thoughtful sounding Wolf Hour. It features some  blistering guitar licks  before Örjan Mäki’s lived-in vocal enters. He’s a talented storyteller who paints pictures as he delivers a needy, emotive vocal. Later, drums provide the heartbeat and then pound adding drama, as searing guitars combine as the Favorite Hippies join forces and showcasing their considerable talents. Adding the finishing touch to this seven minute epic is a soul-baring vocal that bristles with emotion.

As the rocky sounding Organise unfolds, the guitars combine with the rhythm section and washes of swiping organ. Örjan Mäki delivers a powerhouse of a vocal as scorching guitars are unleashed and thunderous drums pound. The four members of the band morph into one on this irresistible fusion of Southern Rock and R&B. It’s a glorious a reminder of what rock music used to sound like.

 I Need A Rocker explodes into life and is a slice of good time rock ’n’ roll that brings to mind The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis. Favorite Hippies transport the listener back in time on this irresistible sounding track that’s guaranteed to get any party started.

The tempo drops on Perfect Timing, where alt-country guitars combine with the rhythm section complete with slow,  pounding drums before it’s all change. Just Örjan Mäki’s wistful vocal and a strummed guitar combine, and this contrast prove effective. Soon, though, the arrangement builds and the rhythm section and guitars are added and. occasionally, Favorite Hippies sound like Wilco. Both bands have something in common, lead vocalists who can breath life, meaning and emotion into lyrics like Örjan Mäki does here.

Closing Northern Skies is the title-track which is quite different to other tracks. The arrangement is spacious and is allowed to breath as the Favorite Hippies taking a less is more approach. Just a guitar, bass, drums and harmonica combine with Örjan Mäki’s heartfelt vocal as he sings to his son on this quite beautiful slice of bluesy and sentimental sounding Alt-country music. It’s the perfect way to end the album.

Four years after the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album Love Is Hard, Favorite Hippies return with their much antiquated third album Northern Skies. It finds the talented quartet switching between alt-country, Americana, country, good time rock ’n’ roll, R&B and Southern Rock. There’s even diversions via alt-rock and elements of blues as they showcase their considerable skills on Northern Skies. 

It features a series breathtaking performances and is an almost flawless album. There’s a reason for this. Rather than record twelve to fifteen songs, Favorite Hippies recorded just nine tracks for Northern Skies and every one of these carefully crafted tracks is of the highest quality. They’re part of Northern Skies, which is a career-defining album from the truly talented and versatile Favorite Hippies.

Favorite Hippies-Northern Skies.

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