Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: Kranky
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Where Shine New Lights, the seventh solo album from veteran indie songsmith and otherworldly mystic Tara Jane O'Neil, begins with "Welcome," a short cluster of multi-tracked vocals that drone on a note or two before spilling into "Wordless in the Woods," the equally ethereal but more traditionally arranged song that follows. This brief, glowing meditation sets the tone for an album of O'Neil's airy, barely cogent pop songwriting at its very best. Trying to discern lyrics, hold onto threads of repeating themes, or even find one's footing in the indie ambient forest of Where Shine New Lights are all afterthoughts, with the main power of the album being its enveloping qualities, with songs that convey vivid emotional resonance even at their most obscured or murky.
Although it’s been five years since Tara Jane O’Neil’s last proper album, 2009’s A Ways Away, it’s not as if she’s been off the radar. There’s been her single on K Records Sirena and the collaborative album with Nikaido Kazumi reminding us of her presence, along with various live performances and soundtrack work. Yet, something about O’Neil remains ethereal almost beyond reach, and it’s a quality that applies to her music and to Where Shine New Lights in particular.
"What you love is made of wind," Tara Jane O'Neil muses a little more than halfway through Where Shine New Lights, her first solo LP in five years. The deeply naturalistic Lights finds O'Neil—ex-Rodan bassist, painter, constant collaborator, and tireless solo experimenter—carving scenery out of sound. Yet it's the record's very next line that really gets to the heart of Lights: "you will not be this shape again." Lights, her first LP for Kranky, is quite possibly the finest merging of the chameleonic O'Neil's song-based work and her more experimental side.
Tara Jane O’Neil begins Where Shine New Lights, her seventh solo album and the first for Kranky Records with ‘Welcome’, a short passage of multi-tracked sirenic wordless coos that beckon the listener in to wander in a dreamlike state through O’Neil’s ever shifting and increasingly immersive sound world. The journey continues as “Welcome” shifts and transforms into a drone which in turn becomes “Wordless in Woods”, a track that hangs on a hypnotic minimal guitar phrase, repeated mantra like as O’Neil’s vocal weaves around it as amplifiers buzz and swell below the surface. The sun-dappled and surfy “This Morning Glory” follows, with delicate, warm harmonies playing over a simple tremolo guitar and sparse, brushed percussion.
Where Shines New Lights is a dreamy, droney, lo-fi and very downtempo affair, appropriate for spaced-out afternoons staring at the falling snow or, perhaps, late nights contemplating the fire burning down in the grate. Portland, Oregon’s Tara Jane O’Neil has been putting out records for the better part of 15 years now, and her latest channels a kind of narcotic cloudiness that makes it surprisingly appropriate for any number of moods. Its morphine-laced grooves won’t encourage anyone to jump up and dance, or even worry much about getting the dishes done, but its rich range of sound create a lush pocket of sound that envelops the listener and whisks him/her away to some other, softer place.
Tara Jane O’Neil — Where Shine New Lights (Kranky)Records hide so many things in their grooves. We often forget about the time and effort put into them, and about the trials behind them. The platter spins, the needle drops, and the music issues effortlessly from the speakers. What could be easier? But for Tara Jane O’Neil five years, five studios, eight musicians, Hurricane Irene and a Kickstarter program came between her last solo album and Where Shine New Lights, her debut for Chicago’s Kranky record label.Not that you’d know it from listening.
This album reminds me of a lot of things. It reminds me of Galaxie 500, of Colleen, of Julee Cruise, of Juana Molina, of Low, of Adem… but most of all it reminds me of how much I crave a good, small pub with a half decent soundsystem where I can play, or just hear, this sort of thing. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how strange, slow, sad songs can function as social music – especially since I’ve been obsessively compiling this playlist – and really feeling the frustration that at the moment I can only really appreciate this as headphone music.