Emotional and expansive, Menning has the ability to profoundly express life’s complexities through dense musical landscapes.
The past two years have been challenging times, to say the least. For Bo Menning, the Netherlands-based singer-songwriter, they’ve been especially trying. Dealing with depression, isolation and the loss of a mentor, the weight of his personal experiences are staggering. Not allowing these struggles to overtake him, Menning has found a way to break free…
Enter North Star Runaway — the vindicating solo entry from Aestrid singer / guitarist, released on October 29.
“I wanted to make a country folk record: scenic and heartfelt,” says Menning. “This is the closest that I got. But, for me, it’s got the heart of a record that has that vibe.”
Atmospherically, the overall tone borrows recognizable traits of country folk, swirling through the dense fog of shoegaze and art rock. Coming from a very personal place, North Star Runaway is as complex in composition as the thoughts and feelings the artist faces. His soft spoken vocals are a beacon guiding listeners across the terrain of these harmonious, yet sometimes rugged tonal landscapes.
The emotional wounds Menning sustained cut deep, so too do the sonic counterparts on this album. While it’s a reflection of pain, it’s also a soundtrack of one’s attempt at separating from their personal struggles.
Hardships aside, the 1984 film, Running Brave, serves as an inspirational foundation for North Star Runaway. The movie revolves around olympic gold medalist, Billy Mills, and his traumatic experiences growing up on a reserve in South Dakota.
“The way he dealt with his struggles has always been a source of inspiration on how to deal with my feelings of depression and alienation,” Menning describes. “To be able to run free, forgetting the hopelessness when you run across the plains and through the woods… As a runner myself, that’s all I ever wanted.”
He describes the album as “the hope of finding a better place than where you grew up. Finding something that’ll get you out there.”
The future glimmering. Trouble buzzing. Darkness brooding.
North Star Runaway was written, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered entirely by himself, to great effect. Due to the pandemic, Menning wasn’t able to perform with Aestrid. In the meantime, this album seems to serve as a much-needed outlet for the musician.
Contrary to typical review fashion, this is more of a commentary. In my opinion, it would do the album an injustice to give it a track-by-track breakdown, pointing out which songs stand out most to me. In all fairness, this is a truly sincere and immersive piece, deserving of a full, uninterrupted listen in a calm and quiet space.
What I can say is this: each of the ten songs signify a part of a journey, from what motivates oneself to escape their torment, to embarking into the great unknown in search of who they are. We can’t escape our past, we can only make peace with it, and move forward with a renewed sense of self. Start to finish, North Star Runaway plays out in such a way that is relatable to the listener while, at the same time, allowing them to follow Bo Menning on his restorative quest.