2. Laura Veirs – The Lookout
You know how Harvest Moon is only, like, the ninth or tenth best Neil Young album, and for sure one of his least ambitious, but there are certain times – I’m thinking Sunday at twilight, sitting on the porch and sipping an adult beverage as the sun sinks below the horizon—when its gentle country-folk ditties are all you want to hear? That thought came to mind as I was getting to know The Lookout, the latest solo outing by Colorado singer-songwriter Laura Veirs. Not just because gentle country-folk is well-represented here, by “Seven Falls,” “The Canyon,” and several other exquisitely crafted songs. (Though a few, such as “Watch Fire,” which features feathery counterpoint vocals by Sufjan Stevens, skirt the edges of indie-pop.) It’s also because, while this is most assuredly not the hippest album of 2018 – Veirs is the kind of lyricist who is unafraid to pen a sentimental line like “Man alive, I’m glad I found you” – I can’t think of one that sounds lovelier. An undercurrent of melancholy adds depth to the prettiness. The opener, “Margaret Sands,” seems to be about a woman who has drowned at sea. (“Now she’s married to the swell, she’s swaying in the shells.”) Yet here and there, glimmers of hope cut through the sweet sadness. (“When it grows darkest, the stars come out,” Veirs sings soothingly on “When It Grows Darkest.”) I’ve found this artist’s previous solo efforts to be likeable but verging on twee – I can definitely live without the yodeling on 2011’s Tumble Bee. And while I adored 2016’s case/lang/veirs, Veirs’ harmonious collaboration with Neko Case and k.d. lang, her undemonstrative warble risked being overshadowed by Case’s wild-child vocal delivery and lang’s sensual croon. Here, on her own, with 12 immensely appealing tunes to showcase her prodigious talents, she spins mellow gold. Move over, Neil, there’s a new contender for the perfect Sunday sunset soundtrack.
[Blogger’s note: *Amid alarming reports on the demise of the album, I humbly submit my picks for the best full-length releases of 2018. I’ll post them one at a time over the next few weeks, hopefully getting to #1 before Valentine’s Day! Want to save the album? Then go out and purchase a vinyl LP – or a CD, if you must – from a real bricks-and-mortar shop. Don’t just stream random tracks to your phone! Read my extended rant on the subject here.]
- 10. Bettye LaVette — Things Have Changed
- 9. Superorganism — Superorganism
- 8. Neko Case — Hell-On
- 7. The Lemon Twigs — Go to School
- 6. Greta Van Fleet — Anthem of the Peaceful Army
- 5. Elvis Costello & The Imposters — Look Now
- 4. Parquet Courts — Wide Awaaaaake!
- 3. Field Music — Open Here
- The 10 Best Albums of 2017
- The 10 Best Albums of 2016