What does Laura Veirs sound like?
Indie folk of the highest tier.
The review of Laura Veirs – Phone Orphans
Over the last few albums, I’ve joked that Laura Veirs is a master of making extremely concise tracks and albums. For her latest album ‘Phone Orphans’, she crams 14 songs into 35 minutes and this time, Laura has gone for a slightly more stripped-back approach. A finger-picked acoustic guitar is the central instrument that carries a substantial amount of the album, creating one of Veir’s most tender-sounding albums to date.
The opening five minutes are just acoustic guitar and voice. Covering the opening two tracks ‘Creatures of a Day’ and ‘If You Could Hold Someone’ perfectly lull you into this tender world. Laura’s voice is hushed, emotive and often filtering between a clear delivery and a fading quiver. Add in lilting guitar riffs that cry out “indie folk classic in waiting” and you have a trademark Laura Veirs album waiting to break free. The in-room audio capture allows for various bits of room noise, seat creaks or hollow instrument hums. By the time we hit the more uke-flavoured ‘Rocks of Time’ and the deeper strummed ‘Tree Climber’ we are sensitively attuned to the introspective nature of the album. Room hiss and light white noise add to the intimate production, giving it weight and emotion.
The sparse delivery of songs allows Laura to try some interesting ideas. ‘Up Is a Nice Place to Be’ is an acapella track that sounds like it’s been recorded in a cold bathroom. There is a certain Celtic/Icelandic folk charm to it. ‘Tiger Ocean’ is a gorgeous guitar-turned-harp instrumental piece. ‘Piano Improv’ sounds like it’s missing from an indie modern classical label. It is an odd inclusion since the piano doesn’t feature anywhere else. ‘Magnolia Sphere’ is the sole electric guitar track that keeps a distant hazy hue.
The rustic DIY approach continues throughout the album. That means it is songwriting and heartfelt performances that Laura relies on to carry the album. It is a wise choice as track after track lands gut punches or intense melancholy. ‘The Archers’ out Lisa Germano’s Lisa Germano with its whisky sanguine taste. ‘Smoke Song’ leans into a Joanna Newsom folk style of songwriting as the guitar bounces along like a harp gallop. ‘Swan Dive’ elongates soft cries of the song title over a repetitive gypsy riff. It is so simple but so effective because of its short runtime. Veirs never wrings out a specific idea. She stops and pivots once she’s tried something out, although it does mean a few songs fade out rather than ending. The album then closes out with some more rustic folk tracks such as the bluesy roots of ‘Beautiful Dreams’. After such an ethereal emotive album, it grounds the listener back on planet Earth.
It’s quite daring for Laura Veirs to move to such a stark-sounding album. Her previous 2022 album ‘Found Light’ was wildly experimental and lavish. ‘Phone Orphans’ is the polar opposite. Nothing can run and hide when it is just you and your guitar. It allows Laura’s songwriting talents to shine brightly. I’d also argue it’s some of her most fluid-sounding work to date too. Pour me a double, these superb home truth folk songs require it.
Recommended track: The Archers
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