Originally from Virginia and now based in Washington, the four-piece line up as frontman Will McCarry, Lonnie Southall (guitar/mandolin), Mike Pingley (drums), and Jackson Wright (bass/piano), their blend of indie-rock and chamber-folk having been likened to both Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes, though I think there's a hint of Darlingside in there too.
This is their second album and, according to McCarry, has its origins in his seeing Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris' and being inspired to explore the idea of nostalgia as a form of denial and letting go of the past to move forward. It opens with 'Oh, Love', a planned but never used title for a novel by his grandfather Charles McCarry, a prolific writer of spy fiction and former CIA operative who appears on the album cover, a gently lilting, treated vocal number about how "love wanes as we get older."
'Fear' is, as per the title, a more agitated (and more heavily arranged) number drawn from a period of doubt and loss that, opening with some clanking guitar notes, slides into the more rock-oriented (touches of ELO too), choral vocals 'The Lake' part written for McCarry's late cousin and part for the lakeside family home known as The Harbor.
A lively handclaps-driven shuffle 'Ready To Break' nods to their pop inclinations, even if it does pivot around potentially ending a relationship, perhaps consciously followed by the sweetly sung 'I Love You', another track that underlines their classic audience friendly rock influences with its catchy hooks
Things slow down for the more stripped back piano soft pop, strings-enhanced ballad waltzer 'Winter', another break up number ("I watched from the hallway on some afternoon the ghost of us packing up our living room"), that serves as a title companion to the equally fully arranged 'Snow Day', another song of loss, here about his dog Daxter and laying him to rest in the wood near the farm where McCarry grew up.
That ramshackle farmhouse childhood home is also the inspiration behind the West Coast feel of the dreamily orchestrated 'Ghosts', haunted but in a good way, while, as the title suggests 'We Met Just Once', another handclaps number, plays on the idea of a chance encounter and how it could have gone different, hints of Paul Simon bubbling through the melody and vocals.
Etched out on an initial repeated simple piano note with an ethereal background wash before the arrangements spreads its wings, 'Fiction' moves between intimacy and a widescreen feel, building to a euphoric climax that mirrors lyrics like "You were like sun on the side of this room, that I wandered through" before ebbing way on warm trumpet notes. The album ends with more burnished brass notes on 'Right to My Head', from whence comes the album's title, gathering the album's running theme of untethering the past and finding healing and closure into a swelling orchestral finale.
Decidedly inclined more to the mainstream grown up AM rock audience than folksier circles, nonetheless this spins gold from its nostalgia.
|Amy Goddard: Always A Dreamer||Sam Baker: Horses And Stars|
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