Glistening pianos and emotionally cratering harmonies rising from the . Acoustic guitars that seem to howl out for someone to hear their desperate cry of love. Dreams translated into sonically sophisticated ballads. Serenading that lingers in our minds even after the disc has stopped spinning and the band has ceased to play. “Bird,” “Only Image,” “Blue Dream” and “The Greenest Grass” are but a taste of what Pale Mara impart to us in their brand new self-titled album, which hits record stores this December and promises to elevate the status of its composers to the primetime spotlight (where they’ve always belonged).
This is Pale Mara at their most unrestrained and unrestricted by the parameters of country music as we know it; Americana is married with suffocating psychedelic grooves and a mix that churns us inside of an evocative musical vortex littered with shades of singer/songwriters and trailblazing cowboys long gone from this earth. “Sun POV Song,” “More Than This Person” and “My Curse With the Canvas” go out of their way to set themselves apart in the modern alternative country lexicon, but further defining their tonality and unique sound was only part of what Pale Mara wished to accomplish in their latest and greatest release yet.
The production quality here is so brilliantly vivid that we can hear even the smallest of details in the tightly wound arrangement of songs like “The Greenest Grass” or the somber opening track “Not Like I Used To.” It doesn’t take very long for “Blue Dream” to become so gargantuan and threatening in size that we lose sight of its earnest intro, which only hints that we’re about to be assaulted with a translucent melody the size of a skyscraper. Whether it be the guitar, the piano, the elusive drumming or the honey-sweet vocals that punctuate the rhythm with contemplative lyricism, there’s not a single instrument failing to synchronize and fall into its exquisitely designed space in the master mix, which isn’t something that you see a lot in country music. Rather than centering everything on one specific area of a song, these tracks spread out the climax and make use of each musical ingredient efficiently.
Pale Mara’s self-titled LP is striking, emotional and surprisingly rousing for how relatively simple its songs are. This is a band that I instantly knew was going to make a really big mark with their follow up to 2016’s Votive EP, and they’ve lived up to every expectation I had coming into the review of this album. Instead of repeating the same formula that they used with Votive, they build on their stylistic ambitions and end up creating a sound that is as feverishly addictive as college rock and still hitched to the accessible, humble imagery and prerequisite twang of country music. Even if you’re not much for country I would tell you to give this record a shot – balladry like “Only Say It If You Mean It” and “Bird” don’t target one audience over another, but instead relate to anyone who has ever felt emotions that are indescribable outside of the realm of music.