Release Date: Mar 10, 2015
Record label: Burger Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
"Paying", the centerpiece of Sarah Bethe Nelson’s debut album, concerns a bartender who’s had it with the guy mooching booze off her. "This is the last time I’ll be making your drinks on the house," she sings as the guitars float around the room like the memory of cigarette smoke. The jukebox is playing nothing but Low and Red House Painters, which suits this barkeep just fine.
On her debut solo album, 2015's Fast Moving Clouds, Sarah Bethe Nelson sounds like a nice gal who is also nobody's fool, a combination that isn't so easy to pull off. With her soft, breathy voice and casual but effective phrasing, Nelson has a perfect instrument for smart, dreamy indie pop, but keep an ear peeled for her lyrics, and you'll quickly discover Nelson has a good head on her shoulders, has been around the block a time or two, and will only put up with other folks' nonsense for so long. The album's first breakout track, "Paying," isn't necessarily the best song on Fast Moving Clouds, but it sums up her persona and her songwriting brilliantly, as Nelson takes on the voice of a bartender who informs a man who's done her wrong that he's not getting free drinks anymore.
Fast-Moving Clouds wraps Sarah Bethe Nelson’s soft, lulling voice with shimmering West Coast garage psych. Its songs float like cumulus clouds around you, luminous, indefinite and shot through with sunshine, and yet, for all that soothing edgeless-ness, there’s a sharp core to most of these songs, as Nelson sings about shaking off a bad relationship and reclaiming her autonomy. A lot of these songs – “Black Telephone” and “Snake Shake” most prominently — might very well have started as guitar-and-voice blues tunes, and there’s still a raw ache behind the glow.
The hooks alone are worth the price of admission, but it's Sarah Bethe Nelson's unhurried delivery and the band's ringing, clear-eyed take on her material that hold this record together wonderfully. The songs are fast-moving clouds, riffs with drift (let's call them "driffs" for now and leave it to someone else to come up with a better term), immediately catchy and contemporary but also tastefully inflected with gazey and psychedelic sensibilities. Much of the power comes from subtlety and restraint: from Nelson's ever-so-slightly bowed long vowels at the end of Uneasy to the understated flute/trumpet/12-string guitar interplay that ornaments the chorus of Black Telephone.
Teasing its way closer to mainstream pop, Purity Ring plays complex games of approach and evasion on its second album, “Another Eternity.” Then again, pop has been approaching Purity Ring, too, as pop, hip-hop and electronic dance music have raided one another’s ideas. Purity Ring is a duo ….