Though I’ve publicly declared myself a homebody, there is one place in the world I’ve always wanted to visit: Iceland. There’s a mystique about this island nation in the north that I find alluring — it’s inter-dimensional; concurrently primitive and modern; self-contained yet thoroughly inviting.
Iceland is the rest of the earth’s ex-partner, living in the neighbourhood but doing its own thing, being its own self, living its best life. If it had an Instagram account, its stories would be blowing up, you know? All this makes it the perfect setting for “Ring Road”, a bouncy new tune from Winnipeg’s Okay Mann (if you missed 2017’s Little Mersey, do yourself a solid and go check it out). Songwriter Katlin Mathison calls it a break-up song based on personal events: “We each reacted [to the breakup] very differently. I became stuck in an emotional rut, and she cycled solo around the Ring Road of Iceland — the well-known highway which runs around the country. I was happy and proud for her, but a small part of me had the selfish desire to drag her down to my level, emotionally.”
Mathison invests the song with musical optimism and hope. Brightly played brass breaks through the lyrical gloom while his strumming, like his singing, is “just smiling to deceive and disengage,” attempting to put up a veneer meant to hide away the heartache. Still, it leaks through, by way of porous cracks that allow Mathison’s emotional vulnerability to emerge without making a sappy mess of the song. The frostiness over the initial break-up has melted, but “Ring Road” is a heartfelt reminder that, like Iceland’s Ring Road, a ride through the remnants of lost love are always just around the bend.