Release Date: Apr 13, 2018
Record label: Raven Marching Band Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It's hard to believe that Laura Veirs started her musical career 20 years ago in a punk band, so is suited her voice and storytelling to folk-pop. During the ensuing time Veirs has honed her craft, working with long term collaborators and occasional label mates Tucker Martine, Karl Blau, Steve Moore, Eli Moore and Eyvind Kang. Now she has produced The Lookout, her 10th solo studio album, which works as a deceptively simple ode to the everyday and the need to pay attention to the fleeting beauty of life.
For an album written in the aftermath of the 2016 US election, Laura Veirs' 'The Lookout' is surprisingly non-confrontational. "I'm addressing what's happening around me with the chaos of post-election America, the racial divides in our country, and a personal reckoning with the realities of midlife," she says in the album's accompanying press materials. Her description of the subject matter suggests 'The Lookout' could stray into uncharacteristically bleak territory, but instead, it sounds and feels like the glowing embers of a campfire at twilight, or a contemplative gaze across unspoilt countryside while remembering the madness of the city.
Colorado-born Laura Veirs is the Levis 501s of alt.country. In short, you pretty well know what you're getting when you pick up a record of hers -, which isn't to say her sound hasn't evolved over the two decades of work she's produced, rather that she has a firm hand on what she does and knows how to present it well. The Lookout sees her return to spiritual home Bella Union after sojourns with both Nonesuch and her own Raven Marching Band label, bringing with her a fully-fledged sound and some fancy new production pants.
Veirs' 2016 Case and lang collaboration was the first we'd heard explicitly of her after an uncharacteristically long break following her last solo venture, 2013's Warp and Weft. Stacked alongside such notoriously distinctive voices, Veirs would seem to play the unassuming straight role, yet she proved arguably the deftest, skipping through torch songs, wooly psych-folk, and folk ballads. The Lookout, Veirs' latest solo outing features those same touchstones, though often pared back to their essentials.
Laura Veirs is probably not the first person who comes to mind for socially conscious music, but there's a careful vigilance about her new album that feels intertwined with the present cultural climate of unease and suspicion. Sentries stand watch on more than one of these new songs, guarding against a vague foreboding just beyond the horizon. Set within Veirs' pastoral lyrics and courtly folk arrangements, the effect can be unsettling, as if the watchers on the edge of some vast wilderness are themselves being watched.