Lou Rhodes’ music career has two very distinct sections. With Lamb she is whipping up amazing technological storms but as a solo artist she stays firmly in the folksy singer/songwriter genre. With her fourth album she takes some of her folk rock down a more psychedelic route in places but the album is a beautifully warm hug from the jumper you’ve always snuggled into in winter.
Opener “All the Birds” demonstrates this enlightened approach to perfection with warm guitar and percussion giving you a rustic dreamscape that the production on Lou’s distinctive voice allows you enjoy. It has an echo swimming through it that really sells the track as she talks about creativity. “All I Need” is a simple track that is elevated by its nod to the 70’s hippy folk music world. From the chimes to the beautiful backing vocals that swell and subdue themselves across the track – the track tingles with smiles. “Angels” has a wonderful interplay between acoustic guitar and harp that breaks away from a minimal chorus. It’s a shame the song itself is short because it’s a Lou classic – delicate, expressive and achingly beautiful.
“Sea Organ” strangely contains no organ at all, although it’d fit quite nicely into this mid tempo chugger. Instead the wonder is left for glissando harp spreads that swirl behind the track. It’s a lovely song and bleeds perfectly into “Them”. It’s here where the production again shines through. Most instruments are played through some kind of filter that gives it a warm effect but also like it’s being played close to your ear through an echo vacuum. It’s why when the voice, or in this tracks case, the strings, do have a reverb or any kind of ear panning effect, you really notice it and your ears pick it up and amplify it. Elsewhere, like on “Hope and Glory” there’s that tape recorder hiss like the albums been recorded live in the 70’s. It really works to the albums benefit when the harp and guitars are playing and gives the album as a whole an authentic bite – sacrificing a little bit of sound quality for an overall feel. The track itself is sumptuous and airy – reminding me of a village theme song from an RPG.
“Circle Song” feels like the sole real downer track on the album with its circular melody and tick/tock drumstick percussion feeling oppressive. In complete opposite fashion “Sun and Moon” feels more like a cute childs book song with some beautiful toy piano styled melodies as she declares “nothing will stand in our way… I’ll shine in the gloom”. It’s a theme that stands throughout the album and it’s nice to have a largely uplifting album that’s both folky and full of minor chords! “Full Moon” reminds me of Linda Perhacs. Nature is abound in this album and the way Lou’s lyrics paint a vivid picture here showing a connected galaxy around us is expertly delivered. “Never Forget” is a beautifully angelic acoustic guitar, string and vocal number which is the kind of understated performance that we’ve come to expect from Lou on her solo work. She never fails to deliver the emotion because as the song grows around her, her voice stays calm yet connected. Whilst you could argue she should let go a bit more, for this album there’s something calming about her words and experience across the whole piece. It’s like she is a guardian holding back the world for these moments of reflection and “Magic Ride” certainly feels like a moment of reflection as string, piano and voice carefully weave a minimalist outro.
Lou sings “on this magic ride I’m just thankful for it all” and it is how I feel about the album itself. I feel like I’ve been let into a mini sanctuary where for 35 minutes I’m allowed to drift through the divine folk waters of a place of healing and cleansing. No, this album will not immediately catch you with instant hooks and melodies, although they are all simple and well crafted, but it’s the lasting impression it will leave you if you devote the time to soak it all in. A beautiful piece of work.