Release Date: Jan 12, 2010
Record label: Raven Marching Band
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Singer-Songwriter
Compared to Laura Veirs’ last two “beyond” folk albums on Nonesuch, July Flame will appear to some ears as a back-to-basics or purer folk album. But that would be too nearsighted an inference. If on her first album Veirs captured a beautifully simple folk coffeehouse ethos, marked by sweet warbles and interesting if generically perfunctory acoustic picking and strumming, this album is far too “produced” to retain much of an applicable folk moniker, and boyfriend-producer Tucker Martine deserves a lot of credit for keeping Veirs’ silky throat at the center of these more-than-folk compositions.
Were you the first to tell your friends about Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone in 2009? Female-singer-songwriter fan, your work is not yet done! The extraordinary Laura Veirs — a punk rocker?turned-underrated pop folkie — should inspire fits of similar evangelistic passion. Always in touch with the natural world, Veirs’ new album July Flame sends us on hikes through dreamy landscapes evoked by her uniquely tangy voice, casting minimal instrumentation in glistening arrangements to captivate the melancholy imagination. If sofa-size paintings of the Pacific Northwest could sing, they’d sound like this.
Woodsy, wonderful seventh LP by Portland singer/songwriter Laura Veirs’ seventh album, set for release in the blustery throes of January, takes its name from a kind of peach that finds its way into farmer’s-market bins in the hottest weeks of the year—a peach, the story goes, that cured her of a nasty bout with writer’s block one steamy Portland afternoon a few summers back. Still, it’s hard to imagine a better soundtrack to the chilly months of wood smoke, crackling leaves, deep Vs of geese honking overhead and squash simmering on kitchen stovetops than this collection of heady, steady, pensive songs. Fall is a time to hunker down, to hoard warm memories of spring and summer as a balm against the coming winter winds, to sift through what’s been and wonder what’s to come, and Veirs does this better than almost anyone.
Laura Veirs makes thoughtful, folk-tinged, quietly rapturous albums that inspire effervescent reviews, but tend to sit in a neglected corner of the CD cabinet, rarely touched. July Flame is her seventh, and parts of it are so extravagantly beautiful that it will send you scurrying back to its predecessors, particularly 2004's Carbon Glacier. Recorded at home with new partner and long-time producer Tucker Martine, it has such an unassuming, homespun quality that you're constantly surprised by how expansive and richly textured its songs are.
Stuck in the midst of winter, it's sometimes hard for us to see as far as its end. It must feel like a trudging schlep for record label bosses, too. December and January are famously quiet months for major music releases, but practically every year there's a winter album that sticks in the memory as much as the wince-inducing torment of waking up on icy mornings for months on end and essentially wanting to die, or at least move.
I'm trying to imagine Laura Veirs playing in a Pacific Northwest-style girl punk group. Apparently, that's what her first band was, back when she was studying geology and Mandarin Chinese at college in Minnesota. Her voice is so suited to the neo-folk path she's chosen to follow in her subsequent career that it's sort of tough to conjure an angry yelp from her.
In some ways, July Flame might seem to mark a kind of scaling back for Laura Veirs. After a few years on Nonesuch, she has returned to the indie world, and where those Nonesuch releases found her pursuing a more band-oriented, rockish direction, this one harks back to Veirs' folkie beginnings; the arrangements are centered squarely around her own acoustic picking. That's not to imply that July Flame is any kind of step backwards, though; Veirs' producer/boyfriend, Tucker Martine, is still helping her to turn her visions into reality, as he has done since 2003's Troubled by the Fire, and there's a full complement of players supporting those visions here -- they're simply deployed in a more subtle manner.
After cutting loose her old band and label, Laura Veirs takes a straightforward, personal approach to folk on her seventh studio album. Her tight, pretty songs rely on her prominent fingerpicking and evoke summer on the breezy Sun Is King and Summer Is The Champion. They also hint at My Morning Jacket, especially on opener I Can See Your Tracks, likely because Jacket's Jim James helps out with vocals here and elsewhere.
OMARION“Ollusion”(Starworld/EMI) Last summer was a tough one for the R&B singer Omarion. In June he signed up to be a part of Lil Wayne’s Young Money Records. By August he was out, allegedly by mutual consent. “Girl You Know,” a song he recorded with that crew, was done over, with ….