The brand-new season of Succession, HBO’s excellent program about the backstabbing machinations of a household of vampiric right-wing media barons, opens with a picture of a man’s face half-submerged in warm, glassy water. Behind him, fog-shrouded mountains sprawl out. Kendall Roy, when thought to be the beneficiary of this bloodsucking clan, is at an elite rich-guy rehab facility in Iceland, and he is attempting to discover peace. Kendall has actually simply done something particularly heinous himself, however he’s momentarily fooling himself, thinking that he can leave the soul-sucking space of his own family. Within seconds, he’s drawn back into the churn. That Icelandic landscape represents a lost promise– a location where you can, nevertheless quickly, persuade yourself that the remainder of the world does not exist. For the smallest shred of time, Kendall finds a haven.
Like The River Loves The Sea, the new album from the Kentucky folk musician Joan Shelley, opens with a brief and charming sketch of a tune called “Sanctuary.” On that song, Shelley sings gently and warmly of “a woolen location to rest your head.” However “Haven” is just about a minute long. As quickly as it starts, it ends.
” Landscape has always had a strong impact on my imagination and the method I hear music,” states Shelley. Shelley likes to talk about how deeply rooted her music remains in the family tree of Kentucky music– in the collision of customs that came slowly into location in the American South, forming into brand-new customs of its own. Shelley has a small circle of musicians whom she likes to tape-record with, and a lot of those musicians– the music archivist and finger-picking guitar wizard Nathan Salsburg, the roots-music enigma Will Oldham– also come from Kentucky. They, too, represent mutations of that custom. They’re simply as bound to the landscape as she is. However Shelley didn’t tape her new album in Kentucky. Instead, she and her collaborators decamped to Iceland, laying the new album down over 5 days at Reykjavík’s Greenhaus Studios.
Now: Like The River Loves The Sea is not an album about Iceland. If anything, it’s an album about Kentucky– or, more generally, an album about private spaces and internal areas. And yet there’s a crystalline peace in the album, a sense of stillness that feels new and, maybe, particular to the place where Shelley made it. Shelley has actually always made quiet, relaxing music. This decade, she’s racked up a remarkable discography of it. Shelley recorded her last proper album, 2017’s self-titled affair, in Chicago, with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy producing. However on Like The River Likes The Sea, Shelley co-produces herself, splitting those responsibilities with the English-born and Chicago-based guitar player James Elkington, another longtime partner. Shelley pretty much took her whole camp with her to Iceland: Elkington, Salsburg, Oldham. Shelley reunites with Cheyenne Mize and Julia Purcell, her old bandmates in the traditional-music trio Maiden Radio, on a few tunes. Several Icelandic musicians sign up with in, too. But for the a lot of part, it’s a household affair.
It has to be. As ever, Shelley is making quiet, intimate music– music that carries a fragile sense of environment. There’s real chemistry in the way Shelley and her collaborators interact– in the method Elkington and Salsburg’s guitars link with Shelley’s, state, or in the method Oldham’s silk-sandpaper creak backs her voice up on a number of choruses. Shelley sings the type of words you ‘d just use when speaking with somebody you understand really, extremely well. Often, those words are consoling: “When you boil down hard, as you constantly do/ I’m conserving a part of me just to come down for you.” In some cases, they’re squashing: “You were a little late that night/ You were ideal about that/ Leaned into my sympathies that you no longer had.” Sometimes, they’re some mix of the two: “Your eyes look so far-off/ However your arms are still so able.”
All this peaceful, rapturous music works as a balm, a respite. When you desire it to, Shelley’s music can fade into the background, becoming its own sort of rustic cricket-chirp atmosphere. However some of the songs on Like The River Likes The Sea— like “ Boiling Down For You,” or “ The Fading“– are amongst the most softly ravaging that Shelley has actually ever taped. The latter begins seeming like a mutually helpful break up song: “When it breaks down/ Oh babe, let’s try/ To see the appeal in all the fading.” Ultimately, though, it ends up being something bigger. It becomes a song about accepting unavoidable apocalypse: “And, oh, Kentucky stays in my mind/ It’s sweet to be five years behind/ That’s where I’ll be when the sea rises/ Holding my dear pals and drinking wine.”
And possibly that’s the very best way to hear Like The River Enjoys The Sea— as the musical enhance to the dear pals and the red wine, or as the important things that might make us feel a little better while whatever splits up. As long as the Kendall Roys of the world are winning, we’ll require it.
Like The River Likes The Sea is out 8/30 on No Quarter
Other albums of note out this week:
– Lana Del Rey’s long-awaited, as-yet-unheard Norman Fucking Rockwell
– Tool’s really long-awaited, as-yet-unheard Worry Inoculum
– Pharmakon’s improv-noise gut-scraper Devour
– Whitney’s soft, spindly Permanently Reversed
– Black Belt Eagle Scout’s thoughtfully raw At The Party With My Brown Pals
– Hesitation Wounds’ explosive hardcore attack Chicanery
– Velour Negroni’s darkly climatic meditation Neon Brown
– Ezra Furman’s emotive punker Twelve Nudes
– Noël Wells’ indie-pop debut It’s So Nice!
-!!!’s reliably weak twitch-funker Wallop
– DUMP HIM’s appealing and confrontational Dykes To Look Out For
– Kid Scouts’ genuine DIY record Free Company
– Parsnip’s spirited punk LP When The Tree Bears Fruit
– The Alchemist’s guest-heavy rap collection Yacht Rock 2
– Common’s maturely angelic rap album Let Love
– Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Bryce Dessner, and Eighth Blackbird leftfield collaboration When We Are Inhuman
– Sheryl Crow’s duets collection Threads
– Jesse Malin’s scratchy, seen-it-all Sundown Kids
– 0 Stars’ home-recording experiment Blowing On A Marshmallow In Eternity
– Representation Of Regret’s Suffering Is A Present EP.