Lean Year - Sides Music Album Reviews

Lean Year - Sides Music Album Reviews
The Virginia duo’s sparse, meditative indie folk songs grapple with the impermanence of life and the disorientation of grief, evoking an aching stillness.

Lean Year’s songs move at a glacial pace, their melodies diffuse and hollow, their arrangements sparse. The Virginia-based duo of Emilie Rex and Rick Alverson sometimes sounds like an ambient, slowcore version of the xx, while at other times their piano plucks and saxophone whiffs recall the quietude of a documentary score. Their defining mood is melancholy, their color palette monochrome. On their eponymous 2017 debut, Rex sang of loneliness and isolation over minimalist folk-rock, her voice barely elevated above the guitars and jazz percussion and slow-burning Wurlitzer. The pair made their latest album, Sides, amid personal tragedy: Alverson’s parents passed away, Rex’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and the couple’s dog died. Add the pandemic to the mix and you get a bleak, meditative collection of songs that grapple with the impermanence of life and the disorientation of grief.

With the kalimba-led opener “Legs,” Lean Year set the template for Sides: a looped pump organ or synth or piano riff offset with improvisational horn and piano flourishes, anchored by Rex’s steady, sorrowful voice. “Friends, they just don’t know/About the big thing up ahead,” she and Alverson mutter together before the song breaks open in a storm of saxophone and piano. Between the droopy kalimba and Rex’s careful cadence, the first half of “Legs” sags, but it’s cathartic when the composition erupts into a contained sort of chaos. Similarly, on “The Trouble With Being Warm,” a dreary synth underpins Rex’s plodding vocals until, near the end, she unleashes a run of gorgeous, feral coos. Sit with Sides long enough and you’ll learn to live in its aching stillness, its pleas for annihilation, its horror in a future so barren and broken.

It may sound like an unbearably intense listen, but Lean Year err toward aloofness. Even when saxophone and piano wiggle in and out of the frame, the album’s instrumentation is decidedly flat. These songs communicate dense, thorny emotions without always eliciting them directly. “Nitetime” is rife with stale clarinet, keys, and bass melodies; the saving grace is Rex’s silky falsetto. The predictable structures and moody vocals owe something to alt-R&B, but the pallid, monotonous production whirrs in ambient minimalism, even when, like on “Bad Woman,” the bones of less opaque melodies beg for release.

Before making Sides, Lean Year were devising a concept record about conflict. After experiencing so much trauma, they began writing around themes of loss and grief instead. Yet a lingering tension remains on Sides: adhere to conceptual consistency or explore the unknown parameters of pain? A song like “Panes” seems designed to fit within the album’s architecture without standing apart from it, while “End” dares to venture beyond familiarity. A dainty piano and lumbering saxophone are all Rex needs to capture the depth of her mourning: “Left me with my troubled mouth/Watched the sense run out/Don’t know where I am/Don’t know where I’ve been.” Sides shines when it’s both melodically limber and emotionally poignant, when the numbness bordering the edges of these songs finally burns away.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Lean Year - Sides Music Album Reviews Lean Year - Sides Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on September 09, 2022 Rating: 5


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