‘Islands’, the second album from New Orleans via New York singer Erin Durant expands her palette out from lo-fi, self-recorded debut, 'Blue Mountain'.
In this effort she‘s recruited TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone on production, but the result couldn’t be further from the glitchy, contemporary and often densely-layered soundscape of his day job. ‘Islands’ sits in a world of its own, down some dusty road off the California One highway, circa 1972.
‘Islands’ is a soothing set of pastoral, country-tinged songs centred around a naive, waif-like vocal, accompanied by cascading piano and gently strummed guitar. Malone’s sparse, earthy production suits it well, capturing the ambience of a performance.
Some of the tracks are so light and delicate, you worry they might blow away in the breeze. But the pace occasionally picks up, as on ‘Highway Blue’ which whistles along on a jaunty groove, while a punchy horn section on ‘Good Ol Night’ adds further colour.
Durant’s wavering vocal is perfect for invoking the intended mood, but it’s not particularly powerful, at times feeling more mood than substance. A whisper can be infinitely more powerful than a loud bang, if delivered convincingly. But the songs themselves – pleasant though they are – aren’t quite strong enough to always connect. Bands like Whitney occupy a similar space, with similarly delicate falsetto vocals, but using the songs that hook their claws into your head long after the music stops.
However, there’s much to be enjoyed in ‘Islands’. It’s a cohesive and consistent collection of subtly crafted songs that no doubt gradually reveal their wonders over time. The instrumental ‘Winterlude’ especially hints at an interesting artistic development to come.
Words: Felix Rowe
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