A decadent piano pierces through our speakers and is shortly followed by the voice of Rebecca Blasband, who starts to whisper the bittersweet lyrics of “Love Is” amidst a growing musical melancholy just beside her. The epitaphic tone is soon broken up by a cathartic major key chorus that beckons us closer to the warmth of the melodies and away from the yearning of the words. With a sumptuous rattle, we move into “Fool’s Heaven,” which grinds and grates with a sterile percussion that is desperate to shed its chains. Blasband’s voice reaches out to us with angelic authority – she will not be ignored, and neither will the harmonies she’s letting go of.
This is Here, the unforgettable new album from the Californian singer/songwriter, and while it’s hardly your average pop LP, it joyously basks in the distinctiveness of its sound. The title track seeps through the remnants of “Fool’s Heaven” and smacks an old fashioned, jazz-influenced groove on the record that immediately makes us feel at peace with the world around us. “Walking on Water” is much more bucolic and dependent on an easy-going rhythm, but the spotlight never shifts away from Blasband’s singing, which proudly overshadows even the most minor of oddities in this eccentrically designed LP’s contents.
“Who the Hell is Peter Brown?” demonstrates her knowledge of blues, but “Those Happy Days” makes use of her most relatable, pop-friendly traits and produces the crown jewel of Here just inside of three and a half minutes. Swagger is a word that gets thrown around a lot in music reviews, but there’s simply no other term to describe the prowess that Rebecca Blasband shows off in this record. Here has the bones of a rock n’ roll album wrapped into the tenderness of an acoustic folk anthology. This is no John Denver knockoff though – the themes are tied to a modern vernacular that doesn’t mess with so-called “retro” conceptualism.
The slam poetry of “Ghost Song” fits in well between “Those Happy Days” and “Way of the World” and helps to bridge the gap between the first act of the record and the second. As we dig into the latter part of Here, the tone gets much more simplistic, but the music doesn’t suffer for it. The melodies get much more defined when we get into the rocker “Gotta Work It Out” and the pressurized “Target,” which would qualify as a dream pop song if played through a bigger stack of amps. Trying to categorize this album is like trying to predict the weather; you might come close, but it’s too individualistic to be easily pegged.
Here comes to an end with “Long Distance Love Affair,” a Nashville-style ballad that features a vocal from Blasband that feels like it’s a million miles away from us. Like a letter from a lover that’s far from within our grasp, it tugs at our heartstrings with no rational way of resolving the loneliness that it yields. The only one there to comfort us is Blasband and her enigmatic words, which do their best to lead us into a new tomorrow free of such pain. Imaginative and sprawling, Here is everything that indie rock fans crave in an acoustic-centric album, but it doesn’t give in to stylistic shortcuts. It’s arguably the most robust release by Rebecca Blasband to date and a great addition to her daring discography.
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-review by Scottie Carlito