Words by Fiona Roberts
Warp and Weft (Bella Union)
Result: 4.7 / 5
Portland based singer-songwriter Laura Veirs returns with her ninth release, Warp and Weft. The critically acclaimed singers’ new collection is a complex, haunting gathering of songs that weave together light and darkness by juxtaposing soothing and discordant elements.
During Veirs’ second pregnancy, she was inspired to produce a collection of songs exploring the heightened love and fear that comes from having a child. The end result is a bittersweet, timeless exploration of the extremes of motherhood and new love. Veirs has a talent for breathing in harsh elements and exhaling them as sweet, delicate songs, which disguise their darkness in haunting lyrics.
Warp & Weft contains Veirs’ distinctive winding, narrative lyrics, but has less quiet moments than her previous work, constantly moving and rumbling forward through steady electric guitar and drums. In true Laura Veirs’ style too, the album is an exercise in tantalising collaborations, featuring a line-up of Neko Case, k.d. lang, and Jim James of My Morning Jacket.
Already released as a single, Sun Song remains a highlight of the album, a hazy slice of Americana reminiscent of a dusty early summer’s journey, complimented perfectly by Neko Case’s vocals and gorgeous lilting strings. That Alice is a tribute to the late, great Alice Coltrane and is a perfectly formed slice of melodic, upbeat folk rock. Shape Shifter picks up the same melancholic sweetness that Sun Song introduces, and is a classic Veirs song in its unassuming, timeless and lovely way. It’s made even more beautiful too by the soaring strings interspersing her clear, pretty vocals. Ten Bridges is also a highlight, with mellow guitar plucking and long, slowly building instrumental sections. Warp and Weft slips all the way from sweet, sprightly Sun Song to end with White Cherry, a song evoking a balmy New Orleans’ summer night, its Coltrane-influenced jazz elements combining with Veirs’ folk sensibilities in the most bewitching of ways.
Veirs’ latest collection is complex, lush and expertly produced; an album where haunting lyrics constantly contrast with sweet guitar notes. Warp and Weft seems to encompass an exploration of the extremes of summer, but simultaneously, the extremes of new love. Produced is a talented tapestry of dusty country folk-rock anthems and loops of sweet Southern state jazz, woven together in her usual inimitable style. Veirs’ voice is movingly flat, unfalteringly sweet and eternally knowing. For her cult-following, Warp and Weft is a further development of her musical style, but its greatest strength is in its quiet, expansive exploration of life.
Warp and Weft is out 20 August on Bella Union.
Follow Fiona Roberts at @fionaalice_