The Upshot: For beautifully turned melodies, set in soft, enveloping arrangements that keep every instrument clear, here’s your album.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Laura Veirs’ songs have an eerie clarity, a precision in the pitch and the playing that sharpens the contours of her often dream-like scenarios. Her background as a scientist, as well as an artist, enables her to describe natural elements with an exactitude that doesn’t dispel their mysteries, but rather puts them into focus. Cuts like “Margaret Sands” and “Seven Falls” invoke ocean and forest life in luminous colors, soft criss-crossing vocals and tremulous arcs of pedal steel creating a serene and meditative space. The Lookout, her 10th album, threads the needle between folk rock and dream pop, the folk elements coming to the fore in lattices of acoustic picking and lilting melodies, the dream pop ones enveloping these tunes in a soft glowing light.
Veirs has said in interviews that this album celebrates protection, both the giving and the receiving of safe harbor and shelter. “Everybody Needs You,” with its syncopated rhythms and restless motion touches on the varied and continual demands on a young mom and songwriter, the expectations of listeners just as insistent as those of her young child. She is supported in both endeavors by husband Tucker Martine, her producer on this and other albums, who brings in a diverse array of percussive and orchestral textures to underline her ideas. Here and in “The Meadow,” the string arrangements are particularly fine. Sufjan Stevens makes a cameo in “Watch Fire,” whispering counterpoints to Veirs’ argument against a (relatively) rowdy background of big punchy beats and swinging, skipping melody.
Veirs has a very recognizable aesthetic now, after 20 years of making music, and The Lookout doesn’t make any waves or upset any expectations. If you want to be surprised, look elsewhere, but if you like beautifully turned melodies, set in soft, enveloping arrangements that keep every instrument clear, this is another good one.
DOWNLOAD: “Everybody Needs You,” “Watchfire”